David Zenisek PhD

Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and of Ophthalmology and Visual Science

Research Interests

Physiology and cell biology of the presynaptic terminal; Retinal Bipolar Neuron; Synaptic Terminal; Synaptic Ribbons; Vesicle Transport; Exocytosis; Endocytosis


Research Summary

Neurons communicate with one another by the release of neurotransmitters through exocytosis. Although all eukaryotic cells secrete molecules, a hallmark of neurons is the speed and spatial regulation of the secretion process. The main objective of the research in my laboratory is to understand how presynaptic terminals are specialized for these tasks. This work involves the study of several aspects of presynaptic function including vesicle transport, exocytosis, and endocytosis.

The primary model system in the laboratory is the retinal bipolar neuron of the goldfish and zebrafish, which have unusually large synaptic terminals. These neurons belong to a class of neurons that have specialized synaptic structures known as synaptic ribbons. One specific focus of the laboratory is to understand the role of these structures in synaptic transmission in tonic sensory neurons. In order to study presynaptic function, my laboratory uses a combination of electrophysiological, molecular, and optical approaches.


Selected Publications

  • Mehta, B., Snellman, J., Chen, S., Li, W. and Zenisek, D. (2013) Synaptic ribbons influence the size and frequency of miniature-like evoked postsynaptic currents. Neuron, 77:516-527 PMCID: PMC3569740
  • Snellman, J., Mehta, B., Babai, N., Bartoletti, T.M., Francis, A., Akmentin, W., Matthews, G., Thoreson, W. and Zenisek, D. (2011) Acute destruction of the synaptic ribbon reveals a role for the ribbon in vesicle priming. Nature Neuroscience.14: 1135-1141.
  • Francis, A., Mehta, B. and Zenisek, D. Development of new peptide-based tools for studying synaptic ribbon function. Journal of Neurophysiology, 2011, 166(2): 1028-1037.
  • An SJ, Grabner CP and Zenisek D. Real-time visualization of complexin during single exocytic events. Nature Neuroscience 13(5): 577-583. 2010.
  • Joselevitch C. and Zenisek D. Imaging exocytosis in retinal bipolar cells using TIRF microscopy. Journal of Visualized Experiments 9(28).
  • Merrifield CJ, Perrais D, Zenisek D. Coupling between clathrin-coated pit invagination, cortactin recruitment and membrane scission observed in live cells. Cell, 121:593-606, 2005.
  • Prescott ED and Zenisek D. Recent progress toward understanding the synaptic ribbon. Curr Opin Neurobiol, 15:431-6, 2005.

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