Dr. Mei Zhen

Dr. Mei Zhen

Using the C. elegans inhibitory synapses, we found that neuroligin, a key protein implicated in autisms by affecting the excitatory/inhibitory balance at the brain, functions through not only neurexin, the only known partner for more than ten years, but also Punctin/MADD-4, an ADAMTS-like extracellular protein, to assemble functional GABAergic synapses. A physiological role of Punctin/MADD-4 at neuromuscular system development was first revealed by the Roy group at the department. Maro (Stanford) and Gao (UT) combined electrophysiology, genetics and biochemistry to reveal the action of both secreted ECM proteins and trans-synaptic adhesion complexes in promoting inhibitory synapse maturation.