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Department of Zoology

 

Biography

Studying Biology at the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, I became specifically interested in Neuroscience. There, I joined the laboratory of Prof Carsten Duch, for my Bachelor, Master and PhD theses studying the physiological properties of single neurons, using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. Applying electrophysiological and optogenetic methods I investigated the functions of voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs) in different compartments of a neuron. My PhD research focused on the presynaptic function of the Drosophila homolog of Cav1 voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs). I was able to uncover a mechanism that permits simultaneous, yet spatially separated calcium signalling within the limited space of presynaptic terminals, necessary for controlled synaptic vesicle exo-and endocytosis. For this work I was awarded with the Boehringer-Ingelheim Price for outstanding PhD theses.

This research also introduced me to the field of neuronal homeostasis which fascinated me from the beginning. Neuronal homeostasis is studied by many groups worldwide, using various model systems, trying to uncover molecular and cellular mechanisms that allow neurons and networks to counteract perturbations, so that they can operate within a predefined homeostatic setpoint range.

A central unresolved question is how setpoints are established during development. Funded by a Walter Benjamin Fellowship of the DFG, I have been able to join the collaborative research environment of Prof Matthias Landgraf (Cambridge) and Prof Richard Baines (Manchester) to investigate the role of calcium signalling to establish homeostatic setpoints during an embryonic critical period.

Research

A functional brain relies on adequate activity patterns that facilitate normal behaviour. These activity patterns are critically dependent on the precise morphology, wiring and electrical properties of the neurons that make up the underlying neuronal networks. These hallmarks of nervous system architecture and function are defined as the nervous system develops.

Particularly at the end of nervous system development, a phase of heightened activity and plasticity, also referred to as critical period, fine tunes network properties and enabling the transition from spontaneous unpatterned activity to coordinated patterns of neuronal activation.

Transient activity perturbations during the critical period can lead to lasting changes in network properties, resulting in aberrant behaviour during later life, thought to be associated with neuro-developmental or neuro-psychiatric diseases in humans. How critical period activity patterns are translated into structural and physiological changes, is currently not well understood.

My focus is on the role of calcium in this process, as it has a dual function; as charge carrier and intracellular messenger, calcium has the potential to decode neuronal activity during the critical period and steer mechanisms that are essential for establishing homeostatic setpoints. I will investigate key molecules responsible for calcium signalling, from voltage gated calcium channels to know calcium sensors/responders in the context of setpoint specification during the critical period.

Publications

Key publications: 

Krick N, Ryglewski R, Pichler A, Bikbaev A, Götz T, Kobler O, Heine M, Ulrich T, Duch C (2021), “Separation of presynaptic Cav1 and Cav2 channel function in synaptic vesicle exo- and endocytosis by the membrane anchored Ca2+ pump PMCA” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Kadas D, Klein A, Krick N, Worrel JW, Ryglewski S, Duch C (2017), “Dendritic and axonal L-type calcium channels cooperate to enhance motoneuron firing output during Drosophila larval locomotion” Journal of Neuroscience