Electrical synapse plasticity in neural circuits in vivo

Year of award: 2015


  • Dr Karl Emanuel Busch

    University of Edinburgh

Project summary

How plasticity of neural circuit function is governed is a fundamental question in neuroscience. Electrical synapses are formed by gap junctions and are widely present in nervous systems, including the human brain. Long viewed as a simple and static form of neural communication, recent in vitro data suggest that gap junctions can show highly dynamic properties. However, the regulation and plasticity of gap junctions in vivo is poorly understood.

This project aims to gain insight into the functional and structural dynamics of gap junction signalling in vivo, using the nematode C. elegans as a genetic model. We will establish tools in a sensory neural circuit formed by electrical synapses and identify environmental and sensory conditions that modulate a specific electrical coupling in this circuit to induce behavioural plasticity. We will examine short-term regulation by gating and long-term regulation by channel turnover. We will also characterise genetic and signalling factors underpinning gap-junction-mediated plasticity.

Electrical synapse plasticity is implicated in a number of neural disorders and our findings will offer a new perspective on treating these dysfunctions.