Dendrites and axons are highly complex and heterogenous cellular structures. Functional properties of synaptic connections between neurons are strongly affected by their subcellular location. Thus, subcellular control of synapse formation is essential for the development of properly functioning neuronal circuits. Yet, the molecular mechanisms regulating synapse formation at the subcellular level remain largely elusive.
We aim at identifying molecular mechanisms that regulate the number and locations of presynapses in specific subcellular compartments of CNS axons.
We have recently identified that post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression may be an important means to control branch-restricted synapse formation in CNS axons (Urwyler et al., 2019). We are currently performing an in-depth mechanistic study of a specific step of such post-transcriptional mRNA processing in the context of local synapse formation. Towards this end, we are focusing on an RNA-binding protein that we found to be crucial for the correct number and subcellular location of synapses in two out of three axon branches of a model neuron (Landinez-Macias et al., in preparation).