How Immune Cells Sculpt Developing Synaptic Circuits

Session Date: 
Dec 2, 2016
Session Order: 

Our recent work revealed a key role for microglia and a group of immune related molecules called complement in normal developmental synaptic pruning, a normal process required to establish precise brain wiring.   Emerging evidence suggest aberrant regulation of this pruning pathway may contribute to synaptic and cognitive dysfunction in a host of brain disorders, including schizophrenia. Recent research has revealed that a person’s risk of schizophrenia is increased if they inherit specific variants in complement C4, gene plays a well-known role in the immune system but also helps sculpt developing synapses in the mouse visual system. Together these findings may help explain known features of schizophrenia, including reduced numbers of synapses in key cortical regions and an adolescent age of onset that corresponds with developmentally timed waves of synaptic pruning in these regions.  I will discuss ongoing work to understand the mechanisms by which complement and microglia prune specific synapses in the brain. A deeper understanding of how these immune mechanisms mediate synaptic pruning may provide novel insight into how to protect synapses in neurodevelopmental and other disorders involving synapse loss  and dysfunction.

File 2016_12_02_07_Stevens-Web.mp495.83 MB