Our laboratory is focused on understanding molecular and cellular basis of long-term memory storage. At a basic level, we are interested in understanding communication between the nucleus and synapses during learning and memory storage. To translate our basic research findings to clinical practice we collaborate extensively with several other research groups. We are also committed to neuroscience education and student training.  We integrate advanced tools of genomics, proteomics, imaging, electrophysiology and behavioral analyses in our research. The following is a brief description about the major research projects in the laboratory. If you have questions or comments please contact Sathya Puthanveettil.

Axonal transport and long-term memory storage

Illustration of Axonal transport and long-term memory storage

Gene products such as proteins and RNAs and organelles such as mitochondria are actively transported from the cell body to synapses by molecular motor protein kinesin. As a post-doctoral fellow in Eric Kandel’s laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center, Puthanveettil discovered that kinesins are upregulated during learning in marine snail Aplysia and that this upregulation is both necessary and sufficient in producing long-term changes in synaptic facilitation (Puthanveettil et al., 2008 and 2013). We are currently studying the mechanisms by which kinesin mediated axonal transport of proteins, RNAs and organelles are regulated during memory storage using Aplysia and mice as models.  In collaboration with other Scripps scientists, we are also studying how axonal transport is regulated in neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and addiction. 

Dynamics of synaptic transcriptome and proteome during learning and memory

Illustrations of Dynamics of synaptic transcriptome and proteome during learning and memory

The human brain is extraordinarily complex, composed of billions of neurons and trillions of synaptic connections. Neurons are organized into circuit assemblies that are modulated by specific interneurons and non-neuronal cells, such as glia and astrocytes. Data on human genome sequences predicts that each of these cells in the human brain has the potential of expressing about 20,000 protein coding genes and tens of thousands of noncoding RNAs (Kadakkuzha and Puthanveettil., 2013). We are interested in understanding dynamic changes in proteome and transcriptome during memory storage. Knowledge about specific changes in both proteome and transcriptome will lead to identification of key determinants of signaling pathways and novel targets for therapeutic intervention. Using mice and Aplysia as models, our laboratory is investigating how RNAs and proteins localized at the synapse changes during long-term memory storage.

Aging dependent changes in learning and memory

A graph of Aging dependent changes in learning and memory

Despite the advances in biology of aging of the brain, specific changes in molecular and physiological properties of individual neural circuits and neurons are yet to be understood. Using electrophysiological and genomics tools we are studying aging dependent memory loss at the level of single neurons and circuits using marine snail Aplysia californica

Development of novel therapeutics for memory disorders

Our laboratory is actively engaged in translation of our basic neuroscience research by identifying novel targets for therapeutic intervention. We are currently carrying out high throughput screening (HTS) of small molecules that regulate various neuronal functions. This project is in collaboration with other faculty members in the Department of Neuroscience, Molecular Screening Center and the Medicinal Chemistry Division of The Scripps Research Institute-Florida.