Signal cascade at the synapse
Physics-based and systems biology-based modeling of signal cascade at the synapse
The institute develops and uses molecular simulation, machine learning and bioinformatics tools to investigate neurotransmission in the human brain.
Signaling molecules (neurotransmitters) are released by a neuron (the presynaptic one) to bind the receptors of another neuron (the postsynapic one). This process is one of the key events underlying neuronal communication. It consists of a series of chemical reactions that are initiated by a stimulus (first messenger), acting on a receptor that is transduced to the cell interior through second messengers (which amplify the initial signal) and ultimately to effector molecules, resulting in a cell response to the initial stimulus. This downstream chemical activity leads to diverse biological responses, from gene expression to synaptogenesis. At each step of the signal cascade, a variety of proteins are involved, as well as various controlling factors. A large number of signaling cascades are governed by G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs). These are key targets for therapeutic intervention as well as for neuroimaging in the diagnosis of the disease. Neuronal GPCRs are also key proteins for human senses, including olfaction, bitter taste and vision.
Our research is based on three pillars:
Because of the pandemic, our institute is currently also involved in research of SARS-Cov-2 proteins and the design of antivirals.