Dr Noboru Komiyama is a Senior Lecturer in the Synaptic Biology & Disease section.
The NMDA-type neurotransmitter receptor and its interacting molecules play fundamental roles in brain function, including memory formation and learning, development of complex neuronal connection.
Dysfunction of those molecules also has been largely implicated for human psychiatric conditions including intellectual disability, autism, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
We are trying to understand precise function and organization of those molecules, and to elucidate underlining mechanisms for those psychiatric disorders by utilizing advanced genetic techniques.
We are interested in how complex brain functions such as synaptic plasticity, cognition, learning and memory formation are achieved at a molecular level. We want to understand the molecular mechanisms underlining those higher brain functions and try to find out how these synaptic molecules are organized and how they evolved to fulfil a variety of very complex tasks in the brain.
We are primarily focusing on NMDA subtype of glutamate receptors and their interacting proteins that form large macro-molecular complexes at excitatory synapses in mammalian central nerve system. Recently a large number of human genetic studies have identified mutations in genes encoding NMDA receptor subunits and their interacting proteins that can either cause various psychiatric disorders or increase the susceptibility for these diseases. Thus we have been systematically engineering defined mutations in these genes to study their physical and functional organization in normal brain and their alterations in pathological conditions in vivo.
We are also involved in developing genetic tools that will further help us to understand detailed molecular interaction and precise localization of these proteins in the brain. These studies will provide vital information about basic synaptic biology and better understanding of mechanisms for many human brain diseases.