In vivo Studies of Excitatory Synaptic Function in C.elegans

We are our Memories
— Brian Falkner

The Hoerndli Lab is interested in the cell signaling mechanisms of synaptic maintenance and memory. If eyes are the windows into souls then C.elegans is a direct window into synaptic transport and function in an intact complete nervous system. The transparent nematode C.elegans with 302 neurons, a complete synaptic map, a short life span and an extensive library of genetic tools enables us to dive deep into the molecular mechanisms of learning and memory. The Hoerndli Lab uses genetic engineering, semi-automated behavioral analysis and most of all high resolution microscopy to directly observe and modify synaptic function in intact circuits of a living organism. Although very different from vertebrates at the circuit level, the molecular components and function of neurons is extremely conserved between vertebrates and C.elegans. This allows us to compare, contrast, and to define the fundamental mechanisms of synaptic function and memory. The main questions in the lab are :

  • How is long-distance molecular motor-dependent transport of ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) regulated?

  • How is the contingent of synaptic iGluRs at synapses maintained after synaptic plasticity or during aging?

  • How Do Reactive Oxygen Species found to affect synaptic plasticity physiologically regulate iGluR transport and trafficking?

  • How do prions lead to neuronal damage? Can we use C.elegans to control aggregation rate and tease out specific molecular signaling steps.


Our Research

Combining In Vivo C.elegans Imaging and Optogenetics

Our Scientists

A small team of curious, innovative scientists



Society For Neuroscience Meeting in San Diego 2018