Steve Carlson, Professor
Physiology & Biophysics
We're interested in elucidating the molecular recognition events between pre- and postsynaptic nerve cells during synapse formation. These events are critical to nervous system function allowing the system to wire itself correctly during development. We wish to know how the presynaptic axon identifies the correct target cell, then how its neurosecretory apparatus becomes correctly aligned with the appropriate neurotransmitter receptors on the postsynaptic cell. To understand these events we are first identifing the proteins that mediate them, the receptors of the presynaptic plasma membrane and their postsynaptic ligands. Our particular focus recently has been on the neuromuscular synapse and the closely-related synapse from the electric organ of the marine electric ray. Using biochemical and molecular biological methods, we have found several potential receptors and ligands.