Philip Washbourne

Associate Professor, Department of Biology
Member, ION

Ph.D. Universita di Padova, Italy
B.Sc. Imperial College London, UK

334D Huestis


Research Interests: Molecular mechanisms of synapse formation

Overview: Information is exchanged between neurons at synapses, which are essentially specialized sites of cell-cell adhesion . A mature synapse is defined as an accumulation of synaptic vesicles within the axon, in close apposition to a dendritic membrane studded with receptors (see figure)which are held in place by a submembranous scaffold (Sheng and Kim, 2002). The formation of such an intercellular structure requires spatially and temporally controlled changes in morphology and molecular content at sites of contacts. Recent advances in subcellular fluorescence microscopy have revealed that this process involves the rapid recruitment and stabilization of both pre- and postsynaptic elements. These studies have shown that major components of the synaptic vesicle and active zone machinery travel in clusters together with other presynaptic proteins, such as calcium channels, and are rapidly recruited to new sites of contact (Ahmari et al., 2000; Zhai et al., 2001; Washbourne et al., 2002) .

On the postsynaptic side, receptor subunits and components of the scaffold or post-synaptic density (PSD) are recruited separately and with distinct time courses within minutes to hours after initial contact (Friedman et al., 2000; Bresler et al., 2001; Washbourne et al., 2002; Bresler et al., 2004)

Despite these advances the basic mechanisms by which synapse formation is induced at discrete locations and by which the molecular machinery is recruited to sites of contact remain elusive. We are currently using both mammalian primary neuronal cultures and zebrafish embryos to investigate molecules that are involved in the mechanisms of synapse formation. Techniques currently employed are live confocal imaging of fluorescently-tagged synaptic components, electron microscopy, biochemistry and molecular biology.


Related Articles

Rapid Progressive Social Development of Zebrafish.

Zebrafish. 2020 Jan 13;:

Authors: Stednitz SJ, Washbourne P

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are highly social animals that engage in a diverse variety of nonreproductive social behaviors that emerge as early as 14 days postfertilization (dpf). However, we observe considerable behavioral variability at this stage, and comparisons across studies are potentially complicated both by chronological gaps in measurements and inconsistencies in developmental staging. To address these issues, we adapted our assay for social orienting and cueing in the adult zebrafish and used it to probe behavior in a critical window of larval development. In addition, we performed measurements of body length and tested a cohort of larvae with impaired growth to understand if this morphological feature is predictive of individual sociality. We report that zebrafish exhibit increasingly complex social behaviors between 10 and 16 dpf, including place preference, orienting, and social cueing. Furthermore, social behavior is related to standard length on an individual basis beginning at 14 dpf, such that developmentally stunted 14 dpf zebrafish raised on dry feed do not exhibit social behaviors, suggesting some morphological features are more predictive than chronological age. This highly variable and early stage in development provides an opportunity to further understand how genetic and environmental factors affect the assembly of neural circuits underlying complex behaviors.

PMID: 31930951 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]