Georg R. Zoidl

Georg R. Zoidl headshotPhD (Essen, Germany)
Professor and Canada Research Chair Tier 1 for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

E–mail: gzoidl@yorku.ca
Research areas: Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Neuroanatomy, 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:

2022

Khalili A, Wijngaarden EV, Zoidl GR, Rezai P. Dopaminergic signaling regulates zebrafish larvae's response to electricity. Biotechnol J. 2022 Jun;17(6):e2100561. doi: 10.1002/biot.202100561. Epub 2022 Apr 5. PMID: 35332995.

Khalili A, van Wijngaarden E, Youssef K, Zoidl GR, Rezai P. Designing microfluidic devices for behavioral screening of multiple zebrafish larvae. Biotechnol J. 2022 Jan;17(1):e2100076. doi: 10.1002/biot.202100076. Epub 2021 Nov 21. PMID: 34480402.

Whyte-Fagundes P, Taskina D, Safarian N, Zoidl C, Carlen PL, Donaldson LW, Zoidl GR. Panx1 channels promote both anti- and pro-seizure-like activities in the zebrafish via p2rx7 receptors and ATP signaling. Commun Biol. 2022 May 18;5(1):472. doi: 10.1038/s42003-022-03356-2. PMID: 35585187; PMCID: PMC9117279.

Zhang L, Zoidl GR, Carlen PL. Connexins, Pannexins and Epilepsy. Jasper’s Basic Mechanisms of the Epilepsies, 5th edition, Oxford University Press.

2021 

Zoidl GR, Spray DC. The Roles of Calmodulin and CaMKII in Cx36 Plasticity. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Apr 25;22(9):4473. doi: 10.3390/ijms22094473. PMID: 33922931; PMCID: PMC8123330.

Safarian N, Houshangi-Tabrizi S, Zoidl C, Zoidl GR. Panx1b Modulates the Luminance Response and Direction of Locomotion in the Zebrafish. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 29;22(21):11750. doi: 10.3390/ijms222111750. PMID: 34769181; PMCID: PMC8584175.

Siu RCF, Kotova A, Timonina K, Zoidl C, Zoidl GR. Convergent NMDA receptor- Pannexin1 signaling pathways regulate the interaction of CaMKII with Connexin-36. Commun Biol. 2021 Jun 8;4(1):702. doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02230-x. PMID: 34103655; PMCID: PMC8187354.