The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

New model synapse could shed light on disorders such as epilepsy and anxiety

A team of scientists led by Huck Institutes faculty member Gong Chen has developed a new way to study the role of a critical neurotransmitter in disorders such as epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, depression, schizophrenia, and alcohol addiction.
 
Model synapses showed that GABA-A receptors with Alpha 2 subunits tended to move toward and form at the synaptic region, but receptors with Alpha 6 subunits tended to move toward the extrasynaptic region. Credit: Gong Chen Lab, Penn State University.

Model synapses showed that GABA-A receptors with Alpha 2 subunits tended to move toward and form at the synaptic region, but receptors with Alpha 6 subunits tended to move toward the extrasynaptic region. Credit: Gong Chen Lab, Penn State University.

By: Katrina Voss

 

The new method involves molecularly engineering a model synapse — a structure through which a nerve cell send signals to another cell.

 

This model synapse can precisely control a variety of receptors for the neurotransmitter called GABA, which is important in brain chemistry.

 

The research opens the door to the possibility of creating safer and more-efficient drugs that target GABA receptors and that cause fewer side effects.

 

About the researchers

Dr. Chen

Gong Chen is an associate professor of biology at Penn State, a faculty member of the Huck Institutes' graduate programs in cell and developmental biologygeneticsmolecular medicine, and neuroscience, and a researcher in the Center for Cellular Dynamics and Center for Molecular Investigation of Neurological Disorders.

 

Dr. Luscher

Bernhard Luscher is a professor of biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, and psychiatry at Penn State, a faculty member of the Huck Institutes' graduate programs in cell and developmental biologygeneticsmolecular medicine, and neuroscience, and a researcher in the Center for Cellular Dynamics and Center for Molecular Investigation of Neurological Disorders.

 

Dr. Ning

Gang Ning is the director of the Huck Institutes' Microscopy and Cytometry Facility at University Park.

 

Publication details

Published:
2012
Author(s):
  • Wu X
  • Wu Z
  • Ning G
  • Guo Y
  • All R
  • Macdonald RL
  • De Blas AL
  • Luscher B
  • Chen G
Title:
γ-Aminobutyric Acid Type A (GABAA) Receptor α Subunits Play a Direct Role in Synaptic Versus Extrasynaptic Targeting
Journal:
Journal of Biological Chemistry 287: 27417-27430
doi:
10.1074/jbc.M112.360461