Nanostructural organisation of PSD-95 at the synapse
Broadhead, Matthew James
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Synapses are the communication junctions of the nervous system and contain protein machinery necessary for cognitive functions such as learning and memory. Postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95) is a key scaffolding molecule at the PSD of synapses, yet its sub-synaptic organisation in the mammalian brain remains poorly understood. This thesis presents the use of genetically labelled PSD-95 with super-resolution imaging to resolve its nano-architecture in the mouse brain. To visualize PSD-95, two knock-in mouse lines were generated where the fluorescent proteins eGFP or mEos2 was fused to the carboxyl terminus of the endogenous PSD- 95 protein (PSD-95-eGFP or PSD-95-mEos2). Methods were developed by which fixed tissue sections of PSD-95-eGFP mice were examined using gated-stimulated emission depletion (g-STED) microscopy and PSD-95-mEos2 sections were examined with photoactivatable localisation microscopy (PALM) and quantitative image analysis was developed for both methods. From these platforms it was demonstrated that PSD-95 has a two tiered organisation: it is assembled into nanoclusters (NCs) approximately 140 nm diameter, which form part of the greater envelope of the PSD within synapses. Synapse subtypes were observed as characterised by the number of NCs per PSD. Using double colour g- STED microscopy. It was then asked whether PSD-95 nano-architecture remained the same across different sub-regions of the brain. A survey of PSD-95 was performed from seven different sub-regions of the hippocampus, quantifying ~110,000 NCs within ~70,000 PSDs from across the two super-resolution platforms. It was found that synapses displayed structural diversity both within and between different brain subregions as a function of the number of NCs per PSD. PSD-95 NCs were structurally conserved across the hippocampus, but showed molecular diversity in the abundance of PSD-95 molecules within. The findings of this thesis are: 1) genetic labelling of endogenous proteins combined with super-resolution microscopy is a powerful tool to study synaptic protein organisation in tissue. 2) Synaptic structural diversity in the brain is underlined by the number of PSD-95 NC units per synapse 3) PSD-95 NCs are structurally conserved but molecularly diverse synaptic units of synapses throughout the brain. These findings suggest that cognitive processing at the synapse is based upon a conserved, fundamental, molecular architecture.