Georg R. Zoidl

Georg R. Zoidl headshotPhD (Essen, Germany)
Professor and Canada Research Chair for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Research areas:  Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Visual System, Synaptic Plasticity, Learning and Memory, Imaging, Transgenic Animals, Electrophysiology, Functional Genomics, Neurological Disorders

Research Focus

Electrical synapses (or Gap junctions) comprise channels that allow the direct exchange of small metabolites as well as the transmission of ions for propagating electrical currents. They are formed by two families of proteins, collectively termed connexins (Cx) or pannexins (Panx). The activity of this synapses can be regulated by molecular composition, transport, at the level of membrane voltage, pH, phosphorylation and biochemical signals. This leaves a rich potential for regulation of junctional conductance, directionality and molecular specificity. Arguably, the potential capability to synchronize, regulate or restrict the flow of information is the most exciting role of gap junctional communication during neural development, in the adult nervous system and under pathological conditions.

Historically, the role of electrical synapses was underestimated and all complex and higher brain functions attributed to chemical synapses. This view has changed substantially during the last few years due to novel findings demonstrating that electrical synapses can modulate the synchronization of neuronal activities needed for memory consolidation, thus linking the activity of electrical synapses to higher brain functions. Furthermore, a role in inherited human diseases has been demonstrated and accruing evidence suggest a prominent role in epilepsy, schizophrenia, ischemia and cancer.

My group addresses the functional role of electrical communication using the zebrafish visual system and the mouse hippocampus as experimental models for neuronal networks and synaptic plasticity. We start from the molecular characterization of electrical synapse proteins in vitro to the development of animal models for functional analysis in vivo. Electrophysiological tools, high-end multiphoton imaging of the living organisms and behavioral tests are used to answer the question how these communication pathways contribute and interact to form a functional nervous system. In summary, work performed by my group is highly interdisciplinary and open for students with different backgrounds in the Life Sciences, Health and Engineering with a strong interest in fundamental and biomedical research.

Representative publications:

Turimella SL, Bedner P, Skubal M, Vangoor VR,5 Kaczmarczyk L, Karl K, Zoidl G, Gieselmann V,Seifert G, Steinhäuser C, Kandel E, Theis M.(2014). Characterization of cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding 2 protein expression and its RNA binding activity. Hippocampus.

Zoidl G, Spray DC. (2014). Gap junctional communication in health and disease. Frontier Physiology 5(21): 422.

Kurtenbach S, Kurtenbach S, Zoidl G.(2014). Emerging functions of pannexin 1 in the eye.Frontiers Cellular Neuroscience 8(15): 263.

Kurtenbach S, Whyte-Fagundes P, Gelis L, Kurtenbach S, Brazil E, Zoidl C, Hatt H, Shestopalov VI, Zoidl G.(2014). Investigation of olfactory function in a Panx1 knock out mouse model. Frontiers In Cellular Neuroscience 8(12): 266.

Ul-Hussain M, Olk S, Schoenebeck B, Wasielewski B, Meier C, Prochnow N, May C, Galozzi S, Marcus K, Zoidl G, Dermietzel R. (2014). Internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) activity generates endogenous carboxyl-terminal domains of Cx43 and is responsive to hypoxic conditions. Journal of Biological Chemistry 25(7): 389.

Morosan-Puopolo G, Balakrishnan-Renuka A, Yusuf F, Chen J, Dai F, Zoidl G, Lüdtke TH, Kispert A, Theiss C, Abdelsabour-Khalaf M, Brand-Saberi B. (2014). Wnt11 is required for oriented migration of dermogenic progenitor cells from the dorsomedial lip of the avian dermomyotome. Plos One 26(3): e92679.

Kurtenbach S, Kurtenbach S, Zoidl G.(2014). Gap junction modulation and its implications for heart function. Frontiers in Physiology 5: 82.

Kurtenbach S , Kurtenbach S , Zoidl G. (2013). Array data extractor (ADE): a LabVIEW program to extract and merge gene array data. BMC research notes. 6(1):