Fluorescent Live Imaging Platform
School of Life Sciences
University of Nottingham
Molecular mechanisms in neuronal communication and its degeneration
The function of the nervous system depends on the correct formation, maintenance, and subtle changes of neuronal networks. These are formed by cable-like connective processes called axons, which extend from all neurons and allow communication with other neurons/cells via specific contact sites called synapses. In addition, novel mechanisms of neuronal communication have been more recently discovered, where the release of small extracellular parcels (vesicles) that transport cellular cargo can be used for the long-range delivery of molecules between cells, expanding the capacity for information processing. The correct orchestration of these cellular processes is key in the development of the brain’s connectivity, while disruption of these neuronal networks and communication mechanisms has been intrinsically linked to progressive neurodegenerative diseases.
The different subcellular domains that exist within every single neuron, and which define the connectivity of the nervous system, require an incredibly precise spatiotemporal control at the cellular and molecular level. Our work focuses on understanding some of the molecular mechanisms behind neuronal network development and degeneration. We investigate small biomolecules (RNAs) that reside in axons and extracellular vesicles, and which can modulate axonal function. With some of these small RNAs remaining largely unexplored to date, we use a combination of microfluidic culture systems and neuronal models to investigate how they can regulate neuronal function and how their alteration could underlie the loss of axonal connectivity in neurodegenerative diseases