Mind Talk: Optical approaches to study glutamate receptor signaling: Mechanisms and synaptic function (Prof. Dr. Andreas Reiner)

Glutamate receptors (GluRs) play a key role in the central nervous system, where they pass excitatory signals across synapses and modulate synaptic strength and plasticity. Our research mainly focuses on the subfamily of ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs), which form glutamate-gated ion channels. In my talk, I will summarize our recent work on the diversity of this receptor family and discuss, how different receptor subunits may contribute to gating of the ion channel pore, which is an aspect that also has pharmacological implications. For these studies we heavily rely on optical methods: A particularly useful part of our toolset are chemical photoswitches (tethered photoswitchable ligands) that allow for the precise optical control of specific receptor subunits with high spatial and temporal precision. Besides this, we use genetically encoded sensors to investigate glutamatergic signaling in the context of pathological conditions, e.g. ischemic stress conditions.

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