Prof. Mingjie Zhang awarded Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) grant
Prof. Mingjie Zhang has just won a highly competitive three-year grant from the Human Frontiers in Science Program (HFSP) to investigate the molecular mechanism by which calcium ion determines AMPA receptor (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) trafficking and retention at the neuronal synapse. Prof. Mingjie Zhang and his colleagues from Japan and Germany will try to reconstitute the synaptic plasticity with a minimal set of purified postsynaptic density (PSD) proteins in vitro and manipulate the reconstituted PSD to understand the fundamental and molecular nature of synaptic plasticity.
The team will test whether the reconstituted PSD can emulate AMPAR trafficking and retention by adding AMPARs along with other auxiliary and mediator proteins. They will also examine if mutating a protein-protein interaction site in the CaMKII, a Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase that phosphorylates AMPAR, can impair synaptic plasticity. Lastly, they will study the structural organization of the reconstituted PSD to determine whether it resembles that of the PSD.
The team of three all bring in different expertise for the project. Prof. Mingjie Zhang brings structural biology and biochemistry, Dr. Yasunori Hayashi of Kyoto University has expertise in physiology, biochemistry and biophotonics, and Dr. Vladan Lucic from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry is a physicist with experience with cryo-EM.
HFSP grants fund research in life sciences. The program is based in France and supported by 13 countries and the European Union. This year there were over 600 preliminary proposals that were narrowed to 61 proposals that then submitted a full proposal for the grant, of which 25 were funded (25 awarded out of 654 applications, <4%).