Role of Nicotinic Ach Receptors in Hippocampal Excitability and Plasticity

A Division of Life Sciences Faculty Mentorship Colloquium presented by Jerrel Yakel, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences NIEHS

Wednesday, February 05, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
158 Hershey Hall


The focus of my laboratory is to better understand the function and regulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor channels (nAChRs), and how these channels are regulating excitability and plasticity, in particular in the hippocampus.  Since dysfunctions in cholinergic receptors have been linked to a variety of neurological diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, we are primarily focused on the hippocampus (an important area for learning and memory, and cholinergic dysfunction in AD, epilepsy, and schizophrenia).  In addition, my lab investigates structure-function aspects of nAChRs, in the belief that understanding how the channels work will aid in the design of therapeutics to treat disease.  Using a variety of electrophysiological techniques (e.g. patch clamp and two-electrode voltage-clamp) in combination with fluorescent imaging and other innovative techniques (e.g. optogenetics, voltage-sensitive dye imaging, voltammetry, UV laser-based photolysis of caged neurotransmitters, single-cell RT-PCR) to record the electrical activity of living cells in situ in real time, we have made several important discoveries in the past few years about the structure, function, location and regulation of these channel proteins, including but not limited to; (1) the discovery of novel forms of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus through the release of endogenous ACh and block by the beta-amyloid peptide, (2) the discovery of a nicotine-sensitive neuronal population in the deep layers of the entorhinal cortex involved in plasticity, (3) the discovery of a novel acetylcholine-binding protein (AChBP) from the marine annelid Capitella teleta, and (4) the discovery in mossy fiber terminals that activation of the α7 nAChR subtype enhances excitability in the hippocampal CA3 region due to the activation of PKA. 

Host: Stephanie White

Refreshments will be served starting at 11:40 a.m.