Sussex Neuroscience

Professor Kevin Staras

Dr Kevin Staras

Ultrastructure-function properties of vesicle pools at central synapses

Chemical synapses are pivotal elements of brain circuits. They facilitate basal transmission, acting as information filters, and undergo adaptive changes in functional strength that allows flexibility in neuronal signalling. The neurotransmitter-containing vesicles in the presynaptic terminal are a defining feature of synaptic architecture. Vesicles appear equivalent but only a limited subset participate in activity-driven signalling. As such, the properties of these functional sub-pools - their size, nanoscale organization and use-reuse kinetics - are likely to be important determinants of synaptic transmission.

The objective of the PhD project will be to examine which functional pool properties dictate synaptic function and explore the susceptibility of these parameters to undergo changes in plasticity or disease that could contribute to modulation of transmission strength or pathological-dysfunction. You will work on dissociated cortical cultures and brain slices and use electrophysiological, imaging and electron microscopy approaches. The research will take advantage of the latest optical synaptic reporters, correlative fluorescence-ultrastructure methods, and preparations for exploring plasticity induction and disease.

The project would suit students with a strong physics/mathematics background and an interest in computational approaches to image analysis.

Relevant references

For full list of publications and more details about the lab, please visit: https://staraslab.org

Marra V, Burden JJ, Thorpe J, Smith I, Smith SL, Hausser M, Branco T, Staras K (2012) A preferentially segregated recycling vesicle pool of limited size supports neurotransmission in native central synapses. Neuron. 76:579-589.

Ratnayaka A, Marra V, Branco T, Staras K (2011) Extrasynaptic vesicle recycling in mature hippocampal neurons. Nature Comms. 2: 531 1-11.

Staras K, Branco T, Burden JJ, Pozo K, Darcy KJ, Marra V, Goda Y (2010) A vesicle superpool associated with presynaptic terminals in hippocampal neurons. Neuron. 66: 37-44.

Branco T, Staras K, Darcy KJ, Goda Y (2008) Local dendritic activity sets release probability at hippocampal synapses. Neuron 59:475-485.