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Friday, 27. January 2012

Erin Schuman receives an ERC Advanced Grant to study the fundamentals of synaptic plasticity

Prof. Erin Schuman, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research is one of the seven Max Planck Directors who receives this prestigious grant. These grants, for exceptional research leaders, are a special program of the ERC designed to fund ambitious, pioneering and unconventional science. In the latest round (2011) the European Commission received 2009 applications but made only 266 awards, adding up to 590 million Euro.

Prof. Erin Schuman

Erin Schuman will use her ERC award to study of the dynamics of local proteins and RNA at the synapses. An individual neuron in the brain possesses approximately 10.000 synapses, which are used to transfer signals. The ability of the nervous system to respond adaptively relies on modifications to existing proteins as well as changes in gene transcription and protein translation. As many of the neural adaptations to environmental stimuli occur at the synapses, the question arises as to how the modified synapses gain access to the new mRNAs and proteins.   Erin Schuman’s previous work has shown that protein synthesis can occur locally, near synapses, owing to the presence of mRNAs and protein synthesis machinery. The ERC Advanced Grant will enable a study to test whether synaptic plasticity makes use of the local pool of mRNAs and newly synthesized proteins to alter its function. Prof. Schuman’s research group will visualize individual mRNAs and quantify their abundance in the dendrites. Additionally, the proteins that are synthesized in dendrites will be discovered and mapped. Finally, the dynamics of the RNA and proteins will be studied during plasticity.

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Dr. Arjan Vink
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