William Schafer

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

The Neuromodulatory Connectome: Wire and Wireless Networks

12:00 pm, Thursday 15 November 2018

Location: Oxford Martin School

Abstract:  The synaptic connectome of the nematode C. elegans has been mapped completely, and efforts are ongoing to map the connectomes of other animals. However, chemical synapses represent only one of several types of signaling interaction in the nervous system. In particular, neuromodulation by monoamines, neuropeptides, or classical neurotransmitters is widespread and often occurs extrasynaptically between neurons not connected by wired synapses. In C. elegans, it is feasible to map these neuromodulatory networks comprehensively and at a single-cell level and examine how wired and wireless signaling interact. In this talk, I will describe what we have learned about the functional organisation of neuromodulatory circuitry involved in the control of behavioural states such as arousal, as well as our ongoing efforts to map extrasynaptic connectome networks comprehensively in the worm. In addition, I will discuss our identification of new ionotropic receptors for monoamines and other neuromodulators, which may represent novel targets for anti-parasitic drugs.

Biography:  Bill Schafer studied Biology at Harvard University, then moved to UC Berkeley for graduate studies in Biochemistry. His PhD thesis in the lab of Jasper Rine described the role of protein prenylation in yeast mating factors and Ras proteins. His postdoctoral research in the lab of Cynthia Kenyon at UCSF investigated the effects of monoamines on behaviour. In 1995, he established his own group in the Division of Biology at UCSD, and in 2006 moved to the LMB in Cambridge. His independent research has focused on the elucidation of neural circuit mechanisms using genetically-encoded optical indicators, the molecules of somatosensation, and the quantitative analysis of behavioural phenotypes. Recent work has investigated the molecular, cellular, and network-level mechanisms of neuromodulation in simple connectomes. He is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, a member of EMBO, a Wellcome Senior Investigator, and has been the receipient of a Presidential Early Career Award from the NIH.