Stefano Vicini

Professor of Physiology
Ph.D., Biophysics
University of Torino, Italy 1979
(202) 687-6441

My laboratory is studying excitatory (glutamate) and inhibitory (GABA) amino acid – mediated synapses by electrophysiological (Patch-clamp recordings), anatomical (immunocytochemistry) and pharmacological techniques. The structural determinants of these synapses are responsible for the proper developmental pattern of connections throughout the CNS through synapse formation and modification and therefore they are involved in the control of plasticity in the CNS. Alterations of these receptor systems have been implicated in the pathogenesis of major neurological and psychiatric disorders. On the basis of results on specific and remarkable differences of functional properties at selected CNS synapses that I gathered in the past years, I am investigating the postsynaptic receptor molecular assemblies as structural determinants of synaptic strength.

My general hypothesis is that the postsynaptic receptors for amino acid neurotransmitter themselves are the most important determinants of the synaptic strength. Alterations of these receptors may underlie the primary cause of neurodegenerative disorders. Therefore, I am resolving the specific properties of postsynaptic amino acid receptors in neurons of rat visual cortex and cerebellum performing single-channel current recordings (patch-clamp) in brain slices and primary neuronal cultures. I am also comparing native with recombinant NMDA and GABAa receptors for their functional and pharmacological characteristics. I am also using subunit specific antibodies to study the subcellular localization of distinct receptor subtypes in neurons.

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