Glial cells maintain homeostasis by providing nutrients and conducting immune surveillance. Perturbation of the functions of neurons and glial cells impairs the efficacy of neurotransmission and can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, elucidating the molecular and cellular basis of brain functions can provide important insights into neurodegenerative diseases and facilitate the development of diagnostics and therapeutics.
State Key Laboratory (SKL) of Molecular Neuroscience is the first laboratory focused on neuroscience research in Hong Kong and also the first SKL at HKUST. It endeavors to unravel the mechanism of various neurological diseases through basic neuroscience research, thereby to provide important clues on the discovery and development of drugs that would retard progression or alleviate symptoms of the disorders.
In 2017, this cross-institutional research project led by HKUST was selected as an Area of Excellence (AoE) scheme and awarded HK$63.578 million from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong for an eight-year period consisting of two phases.
This project was found by Prof. LIU and his collaborator that depleting neuronal lipin1, a key enzyme controlling the balanced synthesis of glycerolipids through the glycerol phosphate pathway, enhanced axon regeneration after optic nerve injury.
In this project, SynGAP, one of the most abundant PSD proteins and a Ras/Rap GTPase activator, was discovered to form a homo-trimer and binds to multiple copies of PSD-95.