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Simbarashe Kanjanda

Investigating Protein Interactions Important for Synapse Formation in the Developing Brain

Project Description

Synapse formation is a multi-step process that involves the recruitment of many different kinds of molecules to the synaptic site. These molecules are responsible for the molecular and morphological changes that strengthen the connection between the neurons. Errors in the process of synapse formation can lead to uncoordinated
nervous system functioning and result in various neurodevelopmental disorders and neurological differences. Of interest in my research is the interaction between two proteins that are important in driving synapse formation – PSD-95 and Slitrk2. PSD-95 is a pivotal post-synaptic scaffolding protein in excitatory neurons, and an
intracellular binding partner for Slitrk2. PSD-95 and Slitrk2 colocalize at synapses. Whilst there is a lot of data on the relevance and importance of Slitrks, the role of PSD-95 in this interaction is not very much understood. My research aims to test whether PSD-95 affects Slitrk2’s trafficking to synapses. Understanding how Slitrk2 is
trafficked to the synapse and anchored there is important for gaining a better understanding of the trafficking of similar molecules to the synapses, and the formation of synapses overall. These interactions are also medically relevant as both Slitrk2 and PSD-95 have been linked to a number of neurological conditions such as Bipolar disorder, Autism, and Schizophrenia.



Faculty Advisor

Jennifer Round