laboratory of synaptic circuit development and plasticity

Synapse structure and function is continuously modified during development and throughout life by experience, such as learning new skills or forming new memories. Such synaptic plasticity is thus critical for normal brain function. Synaptic plasticity can also become maladaptive under conditions of brain, spinal or peripheral nerve injury, leading to abnormal function or sensation. Dr. Huntley's research focuses on mechanisms of synaptic plasticity through which synaptic structure and function are modified by experience or injury. Research projects include: 1) the role of the cadherin family of synaptic adhesion proteins in synapse and circuit development, plasticity and repair; 2) the role of regulated extracellular proteolytic remodeling of cortical synapses in synaptic plasticity; and 3) molecules and mechanisms regulating aberrant corticostriatal circuit development and plasticity in autism and Parkinson's disease models.

The synapse adhesion molecule neural (N)-cadherin is localized to developing thalamocortical synaptic junctional complexes. The larger image is a flattened, tangential section through layer IV of developing (P5) rat cortex which has been immunolabeled for N-cadherin. Terminal fields in the barrel (somatosensory) cortex (S1), auditory cortex (A1) and visual cortex (V1) are evident in the patterns of N-cadherin labeling. The confocal microscope images shown in the inset verify that such terminal fields are N-cadherin labeled thalamocortical synapses, shown in the overlay by the codistributions of FluoroRuby-labeled ventrobasal thalamic afferent terminals (red), immunolabeling for PSD-95 (blue)--which is concentrated in asymmetric postsynaptic densities--and N-cadherin (green). Modified from the article by G.W. Huntley and D.L. Benson, "N-Cadherin at developing thalamocortical synapses provides an adhesion mechanism for the formation of somatotopically organized connections."

Journal of Comparative Neurology 407:453-471 (1999).

George Huntley, PhD


Dr. Huntley's laboratory uses multidisciplinary approaches to investigate mechanisms through which strength and organization of synaptic connection are modified during development, by experience, and following brain, spinal cord or peripheral nerve injury.
  Friedman LG, Benson Dl, Huntley GW. Cadherin-based trans-synaptic networks in establishing and modifying neural connectivity. Curr Top Dev Biol 2015 112:415-465.
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