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Home > TEAMS > TEAM NAGERL

Synaptic Plasticity and Super-Resolution Microscopy

Team leader: U. Valentin Nägerl

Valentin Nägerl is a full professor of neuroscience and bio-imaging at the University of Bordeaux and heads a research group at the Interdisciplinary Institute for NeuroScience of the CNRS / University of Bordeaux.

He studied physics and medicine as an undergraduate in Göttingen and received a PhD in neuroscience with Istvan Mody at UCLA. He did his postdoc with Tobias Bonhoeffer at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, and worked with the Nobel laureate Stefan Hell at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry before habilitating in neuroscience under Arthur Konnerth at the Technical University of Munich. In 2009 he moved to Bordeaux, where his team develops and applies super-resolution microscopy techniques to discover and unravel the morpho-functional mechanisms of neural plasticity in the mammalian brain. In 2016 he received the ’Equipe FRM’ award and in 2017 became a member of the prestigious ’Institut Universitaire de France’.

He is a member of the editorial board of Neurophotonics and Biophysical Journal.

Contact :
Valentin Nägerl, tel. +33 (0)5 33 51 47 07 (office) or +33 (0)6 75 46 95 35 (mobile)

Address :
Institut Interdisciplinaire de NeuroSciences (IINS)
Université de Bordeaux / CNRS UMR 5297
Centre Broca Nouvelle-Aquitaine
146 rue Léo Saignat
CS 61292 Case 130
33076 Bordeaux, France

ORCID iD iconorcid.org/0000-0001-6831-9008

Research focus

The biology of synapses is an extremely productive and interdisciplinary scientific endeavor, harboring central questions of cell biology and neuroscience. Synapses are physical sites of intercellular contact that transmit and transform information in a very rapid and flexible way, playing a pivotal role for learning and memory formation as well as neurological diseases of the mammalian brain.

Since synapses are tiny and densely packed in light-scattering brain tissue, understanding their dynamic behavior in mechanistic terms under physiological conditions is a serious experimental challenge. Fortunately, recent technological innovations, particularly in labeling and live-cell imaging techniques, are helping to break new ground. The advent of fluorescence microscopy beyond the diffraction limit has opened up huge experimental opportunities to directly image and resolve key physiological signaling events inside single synapses in intact brain tissue, a possibility which was considered a pipedream until recently.

Our group is invested in harnessing these exciting technological developments to study synapses in their natural habitat and under realistic conditions, aiming to better understand higher brain function and disorders in terms of the underlying synaptic mechanisms.

To this end, we are applying novel super-resolution microscopy approaches (STED microscopy), giving us a much more complete and refined view of the dynamic behavior and plasticity of neuronal synapses and their interactions with glia cells inside living brain slices and in the intact mouse brain in vivo. These approaches are complemented by a combination of 2-photon imaging & photoactivation and patch-clamp electrophysiology aided by tools from molecular genetics.

Key Publications

Tonnesen J, Inavalli VVGK and Nägerl UV
Super-resolution imaging of the extracellular space in living brain tissue
Cell 2018 Feb 22, doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.02.007

Chereau R, Saraceno G, Angibaud J and Nägerl UV
Super-resolution imaging reveals activity-dependent plasticity of axon morphology linked to changes in action potential conduction velocity
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 Jan 23

Tonnesen J, Katona G, Rozsa B and Nägerl UV
Spine neck plasticity regulates compartmentalization of synapses
Nature Neuroscience 17(5):678-85 (2014)

Bethge P, Chéreau R, Avignone E, Marsicano G and Nägerl UV
Two-photon excitation STED microscopy in two colors in acute brain slices
Biophysical Journal 104(4): 778-785 (2013)

Becker N, Wierenga CJ, Fonseca R, Bonhoeffer T and Nägerl UV
LTD induction causes morphological changes of presynaptic boutons and reduces their contacts with spines
Neuron 60, 590-597 (2008)

Nägerl UV, Willig KI, Hein B, Hell SW & Bonhoeffer T
Live-cell imaging of dendritic spines by STED microscopy
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105, 18982-18987 (2008)

Nägerl UV, Eberhorn N, Cambridge, SB and Bonhoeffer T
Bidirectional activity-dependent morphological plasticity in hippocampal neurons
Neuron 44, 759-767 (2004)