Single molecule imaging techniques (2014 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry) have changed the way we understand many biological mechanisms, particularly in neurobiology, by shedding light on intricate molecular events down to the nanoscale.
Thanks to advances in nanophotonics our understanding of synapse organization, in particular the postsynaptic receptor trafficking has simply been revolutionized over the past decade. For instance, several laboratories have demonstrated that the excitatory and inhibitory transmission highly depends on the fine-tuning of glutamatergic and GABAergic receptor fast dynamics at the neuronal surface. In addition, a dysregulation of this cellular pathway likely play a pivotal role in major neuropsychiatric disorders, such as psychosis. However, all past single molecule studies in neuroscience have been limited to cultured primary neurons or cultured organotypic slices, therefore lacking many important aspects of the intact brain morphology and activity.
It has thus been a crucial challenge to adapt and optimize single molecule tracking of receptors in a system closer to the in vivo situation. Thanks to an interdisciplinary effort, Juan Varela and collaborators have just succeeded to perform single nanoparticle tracking in an intact brain structure.
They functionalized nanoparticle to target in vivo a tagged neurotransmitter receptor. This work opens thus multiple perspectives, such as nanoparticle-based platform for single molecule studies in the living brain and new insights into physiological and pathological animal models.
Targeting neurotransmitter receptors with nanoparticles in vivo allows single-molecule tracking in acute brain slices - Juan A. Varela, Julien P. Dupuis, Laetitia Etchepare, Agnès Espana, Laurent Cognet & Laurent Groc. Nature Communications 7, Article number: 10947 doi:10.1038/ncomms10947 Published 14 March 2016.
Contact: Laurent Groc, PhD DR CNRS - Group Leader IINS / Bordeaux Neurocampus