Project Detail
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Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Neurexin-neuroligin trans-synaptic interaction in learning and memory  

Following the construction of a synapse, neurexin expressed by the signal-transmitting cell, and neuroligin on the receiving cell, bind to each other and strengthen signaling across the synapse. The mechanism through which this interaction regulates neuronal activity during development and learning is unclear, however. Dr. Kandel and colleagues plan to study the mechanism using a well-characterized system of synapse modification during memory formation. The researchers have identified the genes for neurexin and neuroligin in an invertebrate sea snail, Aplysia, and plan to study how neuronal activity strengthens synapses through the expression of these proteins. Their research may reveal why loss of these genes causes people to have difficulty with learning tasks that require synapse strengthening, such as language development and social interactions. Kandel and colleagues propose that atypically fearful responses in people with autism reflect abnormal synapses in the amygdala, perhaps due to the loss or change of neuroligin or neurexin. To test this hypothesis, the researchers plan to use viruses to reduce the expression of neuroligin or neurexin, or to express mutant forms of proteins, in the amygdala of mice. They then plan to expose these mice to fear conditioning and observe their behavior. These experiments may reveal whether neurexin-neuroligin dimers are needed to learn to fear or to temper that first fear. Project Status


Funder Simons Foundation
Fiscal Year Funding $200,000.00
Project Number 94173
Principal Investigator Kandel, Eric
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 4: Which Treatments And Interventions Will Help? (Interventions)
Strategic Plan Objective Green dot: Objective has greater than or equal to the recommended funding. 4SB. Standardize and validate at least 20 model systems (e.g., cellular and/or animal) that replicate features of ASD and will allow identification of specific molecular targets or neural circuits amenable to existing or new interventions by 2012. IACC Recommended Budget: $75,000,000 over 5 years.
Federal or Private? Private
Institution Columbia University
State/Country New York
Web Link 1 Neurexin-neuroligin trans-synaptic interaction in learning and memory (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
New! History/Related Projects Neurexin-neuroligin trans-synaptic interaction in learning and memory | $100,000.00 | 2010 | 94173
Neurexin-neuroligin trans-synaptic interaction in learning and memory | $100,000.00 | 2010 | 177568