In September 2011, Silvia successfully completed her B.Sc. in Biology at the University of Cologne. Since October 2011, she has been enrolled in the M.Sc. in Biological Sciences and the Fast Track Masters / Doctoral program at the University of Cologne.

During the rotation period, she worked on the following projects:

  •  “Different modes of life span regulation in C. elegans” in the lab of Prof. Dr. Adam Antebi, Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne
  • “OPA1, OMA1, and prohibitins in mitochondrial quality control” in the lab of Prof. Dr. Thomas Langer, Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne
  • “Gephyrin palmitoylating enzymes” in the lab of Prof. Dr. Guenter Schwarz, Institute of Biochemistry, University of Cologne

In November 2012, Silvia joined the IGS DHD program. After a 7-week lab rotation on “Palmitoylation-dependent clustering of gephyrin”, she started working on her PhD project in the lab of Prof. Dr. Guenter Schwarz.

“Palmitoylation-dependent regulation of gephyrin”

Efficient signal transmission is crucial for higher brain functions such as memory formation and learning. A precise coordination of neuronal excitation and inhibition is a prerequisite for normal functioning of the nervous system. Scaffolding proteins at pre- and postsynaptic sites are crucial for the localization of various factors regulating synapse formation and synaptic plasticity. The postsynaptic protein gephyrin is a major component of inhibitory synapses clustering glycine and GABAA receptors.

Recently, gephyrin was identified to be palmitoylated in vivo. Palmitoylation is a reversible posttranslational modification that controls subcellular localization and membrane association of a growing number of neuronal proteins. Thus, palmitoylation is thought to be essential for gephyrin-dependent clustering of inhibitory neuroreceptors.

In the first place, my project aims to identify gephyrin palmitoylation sites. In subsequent studies, functions and physiological relevance of gephyrin palmitoylation at the synapse will be addressed by extensive characterization of the palmitoylation-deficient gephyrin variant in primary hippocampal neurons. Moreover, a virus-based expression of this variant in gephyrin knockdown mice will be used to elucidate the role of gephyrin palmitoylation in vivo.