Structural Biology of Synaptic and Axonal Complexes

Cell surface receptors are our accesible handles to controling cell function and fate, without having to cross cell membranes. We are discovering and characterizing interactions of cell surface receptors with secreted or cell-surface ligands to have insights into several developmental processes in the nervous system, such as synapse formation, axon guidance, neuronal growth and regeneration.

We are currently studying several neuronal and glial receptors that guide exons and control synapse formation, which were discovered or detected in our high-througput screens for cell surface protein interactions.

Immunoglobulin Superfamily Cell Adhesion Complexes

Our method of choice for a mechanistic and molecular understanding of protein-protein interactions is X-ray crystallography. We supplement it with electron microscopy and other biophysical methods, while we work with model organism geneticists and neuroscientists to test biochemical and mechanistic hypotheses in vivo.

Reference: Extracellular Architecture of the SYG-1/SYG-2 Adhesion Complex Instructs Synaptogenesis. Özkan E, Chia PH, Wang RR, Goriatcheva N, Borek D, Otwinowski Z, Walz T, Shen K, Garcia KC. Cell 156, 482 (2014).