“The understanding of the role of postsynaptic receptors has changed significantly in recent years”, says Choquet. “When I started working in Bordeaux Neuroscience Institute (INB) in 1997, receptors for neurotransmitters were believed to be stable and rather immobile molecules whose activity and regulation were purely based on phosphorylation and structural modification. However, my earlier experience of cell biology made me wonder why the dynamics of neuronal receptors should be any less complex than those of other cell components.” Various studies then proved that receptors are not firmly anchored in the membrane, but move in permanent exchange processes by endo- and exocytosis.
Some years later, the team of Choquet was able to show that the receptors also move in the plane of the cell membrane by lateral diffusion and travel relatively long distances within the synapse. In the last few years the Laboratory ‘Cellular Physiology of the Synapse‘ has been in close cooperation with the physics group of Brahim Lounis at the University of Bordeaux 1 to start characterizing this mobility and examining the way it is regulated. In doing so, they made an amazing discovery for the knowledge of the time: The movements of the receptors are regulated by the neuron activity which, in turn, is directly connected with learning and memory.