Optically recording of intracellular zinc dynamics
Zinc is an essential nutrient for biological function and human health. A pool of free zinc is concentrated in synaptic vesicles in glutamatergic neurons and co-released with glutamate during neuronal activity. The synaptically released zinc has been suggested to act a signaling molecule to communicate between cells and modulate various synaptic targets (receptors and ion channels) and synaptic plasticity, which would further modulate brain function. Zinc imbalance and dysregulation have been correlated with a number of human diseases. Currently, our understanding of zinc in neuronal signaling and neurodegeneration is limited by the lack of appropriate tools to specifically track the dynamics of zinc in living neurons, tissues and organisms. Therefore, the major objectives of my lab are to generate imaging systems to monitor zinc dynamics in living cells and organisms with high spatio-temporal fidelity, and to utilize these novel systems to investigate the biological functions of zinc. Our approach spans basic biophysical and biochemical technologies to molecular neuroscience techniques. We also incorporate considerable use of advanced microscope imaging and large imaging dataset analysis strategies in our research. We will investigate the zinc functions in ischemia/reperfusion by incorporating optimized zinc sensors into cultured neurons and zebrafish (with current collaborator Dr. Bruce Appel), as well as systematically study the cross-talk between zinc and calcium signaling.