My scientific training includes protein biochemistry during my doctorate and post-doctoral training in neuroscience. My long-term career goal is to become an independent investigator focusing on mechanisms of neurologic diseases related to the AAA+ ATPase Thorase. My goal over the next three years is to acquire additional knowledge and expertise in structural biology in order to elucidate how Thorase is structured and organized in oligomeric complexes to interact with ?-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4- isoxazolepropionic acid receptors (AMPARs). With the help of a team of outstanding mentors, we have developed a structured training program that includes extensive hands-on research training in protein crystallization, negative staining, and single particle cryo-electron microscopy, as well as taking formal courses, presenting at seminars, attending scientific meetings, and training in grant writing. This training program will help me achieve the goals proposed in this K01 and ultimately prepare me to be in a position to compete for R01 funding. Thorase plays a critical role in controlling synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory by modulating the expression of surface AMPARs. Mutations in Thorase have been associated with schizophrenia and in some cases, neonates expressing loss-of-function Thorase demonstrate extreme hypertonia, encephalopathy, seizures, and early death. Mice with Thorase mutations have defects in glutamatergic signaling and deficits in behavior. The abnormalities linked to defects in Thorase function can be normalized by the AMPAR antagonist, perampanel, both in patients and mice. These findings suggest that Thorase could be an important mediator of neurologic diseases, such as schizophrenia, that are linked to compromised AMPAR-mediated glutamatergic neurotransmission. How Thorase modulates AMPAR- mediated glutamatergic neurotransmission remains to be elucidated. AAA+ ATPases are known to form oligomeric complexes that are critical for their functions. The structure of Thorase and the exact number of protomers present in its oligomeric complex are currently unknown. To probe these questions, my mentors and I have designed a series of studies that will provide vital information underlying the mechanism of Thorase-mediated AMPAR trafficking/recycling, as well as other Thorase functions in neurons. To attain these goals, the research aims of the proposal are to (i) determine the different oligomeric states of Thorase using single particle cryo-EM; (ii) identify specific residues of Thorase that are critical for AMPAR trafficking; (iii) determine the crystal structure of Thorase bound to the C-terminus of the AMPAR subunit GluA2 using x-ray crystallography; and (iv) identify new interacting protein partners of Thorase oligomeric complexes. Knowing the structure of Thorase and how its oligomeric complex interacts with AMPARs will advance our understanding of how Thorase mediates changes in synaptic plasticity via AMPAR signaling. This study may also identify new potential therapeutic targets for Thorase and AMPAR-mediated neurologic disease.

Public Health Relevance

The aim of this study is to examine novel mechanisms of neurologic diseases associated with Thorase- mediated AMPAR trafficking/recycling and other functions of Thorase. The results from the study will advance our understanding of how Thorase mediates changes in synaptic plasticity and may have an impact on the treatments of individuals at risk for developing AMPAR-mediated neurologic disease. The study may also identify novel Thorase targets for therapeutic intervention in neurologic disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
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Neurological Sciences Training Initial Review Group (NST)
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Leenders, Miriam
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Johns Hopkins University
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
United States
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