Dr. Jason Shepherd - “Virus-like intercellular communication in the nervous system”
Brains have an amazing ability to learn and store information for long periods - in some cases, a lifetime. A major challenge in neuroscience is to understand how neuronal networks are sculpted by experience and how proteins/genes contribute to circuit modification. The goal of Dr. Shepherd's research is to understand information storage, from the molecular level through in vivo neuronal networks and how these processes go awry in neurological disorders. His lab utilizes coordinated biochemical, cell biological, electrophysiological and imaging studies both in vitro and in vivo.
The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain and mediates various forms of synaptic plasticity. We recently discovered that Arc self-assembles into virus-like capsids that encapsulate RNA. Endogenous Arc protein is released from neurons in extracellular vesicles that mediate the transfer of Arc mRNA into new target cells. Evolutionary analysis indicates that Arc is derived from a vertebrate lineage of Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons, which are also ancestral to retroviruses such as HIV. These findings suggest that Gag retroelements have been repurposed during evolution to mediate intercellular communication in the nervous system.
Florida State University College of Medicine Auditorium