Mature and developing synaptic transmission between defined classes of enteric neurons
The cells that make up the enteric nervous system are derived from neural crest cells that migrate along the path that will become the vagus nerve and enter the upper gut at about embryonic day 9. By embryonic day 14.5, these neural crest cells and their derivative neurons and glia have completely colonised the intestinal tube. However, our data indicate that neural control of intestinal function lags well behind this timetable with individual neurons and circuits not reaching full maturity until well after birth. Appropriate neuron-neuron contact and communication via synapses is essential for the control of gut functions. Virtually nothing is known about the processes by which synapses are established and refined during the period between colonisation by neurons and their precursors and full maturity. This project is addressing this question by:
- Determining the proteins expressed at mature enteric synapses, specifically those at cholinergic synapses, which are the major excitatory synapse in the ENS.
- Identifying the developmental appearance of these proteins using molecular and immunohistochemical techniques.
- Examining the roles of less well characterised mediators within the neural circuitry including nitric oxide, GABA and serotonin.
- Exploring the functional development of synaptic and neuromuscular transmission using electrophysiological analyses.
Dr Jaime Foong
Prof Heather Young (Anatomy and Neuroscience)
A/Pr Pieter Vanden Berghe (KU Leuven, Belgium)