SSA: Presynaptic control of subunit composition of NMDA receptors mediating synaptic plasticity in the dorsal cochlear nucleus

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour


Presynaptic receptors are ideally suited to affect neurotransmitter release and influence the efficacy of synaptic transmission. Cellular mechanisms by which presynaptic receptors can affect neurotransmitter release are largely unknown. NMDA receptors (NMDARs) are glutamate-gated ion channels with unique biophysical, pharmacological and signalling properties. The project aims at studying the novel function of presynaptic glutamatergic NMDARs at regulating presynaptic release probability and short-term plasticity in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), an auditory brainstem structure involved in the generation of tinnitus. The study will be investigating their anatomical distribution, subunit composition, activation mechanisms as well as their downstream effects on synapse function in the mouse DCN. Anatomical evidence will come from immuno-electron microscopy experiments that will allow identifying NMDARs in presynaptic elements in the DCN. Direct monitoring of presynaptic function using calcium imaging from transgenic mice expressing fluorescent presynaptic markers and whole cell recordings of DCN principal cells will demonstrate the existence of functional presynaptic NMDARs. The role of subunit composition will be investigated using pharmacological and genetic tools. In particular, single-cell reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction will be used to analyse the expression pattern of NMDAR subunits 2A, 2B, and 2C (NR2A-C) subsequent to electrophysiological characterization in presynaptic cells. Computational modelling will determine the physiological behaviour of the DCN network. Auditory brainstem response recordings will allow assessing shifts of hearing thresholds induced by acoustic over-exposure. Cochlear injections of NMDAR antagonists will allow establishing the physiological significance of presynaptic NMDARs.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1791029 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 03/10/2016 31/03/2021 Masa Svent
Description Brain Awareness Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 200 people attended the Brain Awareness Day event. The general public learnt about the topics researched at the university and got to participate in simple, fun science experiments on the day. A-level and GSCE students additionally had the opportunity to explore the possibility of studying neuroscience at university by talking to students (undergraduate and postgraduate) and lecturers. The openness of interaction between the event attendees and academic representatives (professors and students) increased the public's understanding of the relevance of research done at the university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018