The majority of excitatory synapses in the mammalian brain are located on dendritic spines. Changes in spine structure and function play critical roles in brain development and plasticity. Conversely, alterations in spine morphogenesis occur in psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Consequently, understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying spine plasticity and their alterations in psychiatric disorders could lead to the rational development of novel therapeutic strategies in mental disorders. Kalirin, a neuronal guanine-nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for small GTPases, is emerging as a regulatory hub of structural and functional plasticity in spines. Recent genetic and neuropathological studies in human subjects have also implicated kalirin and its signaling partners in psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Recent evidence has shown that kalirin isoforms are differentially affected in the brains of human subjects with mental disorders, carry missense mutations enriched in mental disorders, and have differential impacts on dendrite and spine morphology. Moreover, kalirin isoforms interact with several important trafficking proteins. However, the roles of these isoforms and their interactions in spines have not been examined. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that kalirin isoforms are distributed in distinct postsynaptic microcompartments, where they play specific functions in coordinating synaptic glutamate receptor trafficking with spine morphogenesis. Recent developments in superresolution imaging have opened up novel directions for functional analysis of synaptic proteins. Here we will utilize superresolution imaging in combination with molecular manipulations, biochemistry, immune-electron microscopy, and electrophysiology to pursue the following aims: 1) To map the nanoscale organization of kalirin isoforms in postsynaptic microcompartments. 2) To characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying the interactions of kalirin isoforms with Arf6, SNX1/2 and dynamin. 3) To determine the consequences of the interaction of kalirin isoforms with Arf6, SNX1/2, and dynamin on postsynaptic structure and function. The proposed studies will be the first to investigate at nanoscopic resolution the sub-synaptic distribution and functions of isoforms of an important regulator of spine plasticity and pathology, providing insight into the roles of protein isoforms i synapses. This proposal will also investigate novel roles for kalirin isoforms in coordinating synaptic trafficking with spine remodeling, which could implicate altered synaptic trafficking as a candidate pathophysiological mechanism in some mental disorders. The proposal will therefore shed light on key mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and pathology, and can facilitate the rational development of novel therapeutic strategies aimed at reversing synaptic deficits in mental disorders.

Public Health Relevance

Understanding the mechanisms underlying spine plasticity and their alterations in psychiatric disorders could lead to the rational development of novel therapeutic strategies in mental disorders. We will utilize a multidisciplinary approach including super resolution imaging to investigate at nanoscopic resolution the sub- synaptic distribution and novel functions of isoforms of kalirin, an important regulator of spine plasticity and pathology.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Driscoll, Jamie
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Northwestern University at Chicago
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Krivinko, Josh M; Erickson, Susan L; Ding, Ying et al. (2018) Synaptic Proteome Compensation and Resilience to Psychosis in Alzheimer's Disease. Am J Psychiatry 175:999-1009
Russell, Theron A; Grubisha, Melanie J; Remmers, Christine L et al. (2018) A Schizophrenia-Linked KALRN Coding Variant Alters Neuron Morphology, Protein Function, and Transcript Stability. Biol Psychiatry 83:499-508
Krivinko, Josh M; Erickson, Susan L; Abrahamson, Eric E et al. (2017) Kalirin reduction rescues psychosis-associated behavioral deficits in APPswe/PSEN1dE9 transgenic mice. Neurobiol Aging 54:59-70
Smith, Katharine R; Jones, Kelly A; Kopeikina, Katherine J et al. (2017) Cadherin-10 Maintains Excitatory/Inhibitory Ratio through Interactions with Synaptic Proteins. J Neurosci 37:11127-11139
MacDonald, Matthew L; Alhassan, Jamil; Newman, Jason T et al. (2017) Selective Loss of Smaller Spines in Schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry 174:586-594
Liu, Xiaojie; Chen, Yao; Tong, Jiaqing et al. (2016) Epac Signaling Is Required for Cocaine-Induced Change in AMPA Receptor Subunit Composition in the Ventral Tegmental Area. J Neurosci 36:4802-15
Blizinsky, Katherine D; Diaz-Castro, Blanca; Forrest, Marc P et al. (2016) Reversal of dendritic phenotypes in 16p11.2 microduplication mouse model neurons by pharmacological targeting of a network hub. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:8520-5
Grubisha, Melanie J; Lin, Chien-Wei; Tseng, George C et al. (2016) Age-dependent increase in Kalirin-9 and Kalirin-12 transcripts in human orbitofrontal cortex. Eur J Neurosci 44:2483-2492
Moyer, Caitlin E; Erickson, Susan L; Fish, Kenneth N et al. (2016) Developmental Trajectories of Auditory Cortex Synaptic Structures and Gap-Prepulse Inhibition of Acoustic Startle Between Early Adolescence and Young Adulthood in Mice. Cereb Cortex 26:2115-26
Gao, R; Penzes, P (2015) Common mechanisms of excitatory and inhibitory imbalance in schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. Curr Mol Med 15:146-67

Showing the most recent 10 out of 52 publications