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Esben M.H. Quistgaard

Structural basis for electrical signaling in neurons

I have for several years worked with structural biology of soluble and integral membrane proteins using X-ray crystallography as the main technique. Proteins of interest include in particular chaperones, nutrient transporters, and neuronal proteins. Since recently, focus has however shifted more towards studying higher-order organization of proteins in situ in cultured neurons by use of cryo-electron tomography (CET).

CET works by collecting a tilt-series of transmission electron micrographs of a vitrified sample. These images are then used to reconstruct a 3D volume known as a tomogram. In high quality tomograms, positions of proteins of interest can be accurately mapped, and their structures can be determined through averaging.

Neuronal signaling is electrochemical in nature. Electrical impulses in the form of action potentials are propagated along axons until they reach a synapse. Here they can be transformed into chemical signals, which carry the encoded information to a neighboring neuron in the same network. The aim of the ongoing CET activities is to obtain a better understanding of how action potentials are initiated, and propagated along axons. The figure shows some preliminary results, and gives some insights into the strategies used.

Figurer Esben

Peer-reviewed publications

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