Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Biology


Neuronal networks in the mammalian brain operate in intricate circuits to regulate cognitive processes such as learning, memory, emotions, or instinctive behavior. Neurons connect to each other via synapses, which are frequently located on small protrusions on the dendrites – hence called dendritic spines. During a learning process, synaptic transmission undergoes physiological changes that must be consolidated in order to form a lasting memory. Therefore, activity-dependent modulation of synapses is the core mechanism of synaptic function. How can selective contacts be weakened or strengthened? Understanding dynamic changes at synapses requires a deeper insight into the molecular machinery involved in targeted delivery and removal of proteins which are key components of dendritic spines.

Our lab aims to understand what defines a dendritic compartment as a "plasticity unit" and what the molecular mechanisms allowing for dendritic compartmentalization are. We strive to uncover the dynamic changes of synapse function and architecture by investigating the following:

  1.  synaptic plasticity and stability
  2. molecular, structural, and functional diversity of glutamatergic synapses
  3. biochemical communication between nearby spines as well as
  4. mRNA targeting and local protein translation, processing, recycling, and degradation in tuning of synaptic inputs.


The role of microtubule and actin cytoskeleton as well as trafficking rules and signaling controlling active organelle transport and positioning are of particular interest in this regard.

Our research is thus positioned at the interface between neuroscience, cell biology, biophysics and biochemistry and offers a high potential for collaborative projects across the different fields of life sciences. To investigate our research questions, we are applying an array of biochemical, biophysical, molecular biological methods, optogenetics and advanced fluorescence imaging techniques such as cell-free reconstitution assays and a single molecule imaging, super-resolution nanoscopy (STED), TIRF, 2-photon and a spinning disc confocal microscopy.