Dr. rer. nat. Dusan Bartsch

Conditional L-VGCC knockout mouse models for investigation of learning and memory.

University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany

The aim of our research group is the study of normal and pathological learning and memory in molecular terms. Our approach to studies of learning and memory is to create targeted and regulated genetic modifications of candidate genes specifically in the areas of the rodent brain involved in learning and memory. The genetically modified mice are then studied using methods of molecular biology, genomics, electrophysiology, behaviour and pharmacology. Our focus is the role of L-VGCCs in learning and memory, memory extinction and age dependent memory loss. Since no subunit-specific antagonists or agonists are so far available, genetic tools are necessary to dissect the specific role of Cav1.2 and Cav1.3 in normal and pathologic physiological functions. We have recently adapted the tetracycline-inducible system for induction of Cre-mediated recombination. By combining the Cav1.3 conditional alleles with the tetracycline-inducible recombination, we will be able to study the roles of Cav1.3 in specific tissues at specific time-points, thus allowing for example to differentiate the role of Cav1.3 in developing, adult, and aging organs. We have generated and tested hippocampus-specific promoters driving the Cre recombinase, enabling us to study the role of Cav1.3 in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Such genetic modifications will for the first time allow to identify the roles of Cav1.3 in selected tissues and generate mouse models for the development of tissue-targeted pharmacology for the LVGCCs. Our modular system provides tools for tissue-specific studies for all partners of the network. We will be able to provide mice with the conditional Cav1.3 allele to the network within the first year. Our laboratory has a new transgenic facility and a new in-house animal facility connected to a behavioural testing facility with more than 30 established behavioural tests. Our transgenic facility is equipped with video system allowing demonstration and training in microinjection and microsurgery. In addition, state-of-the-art molecular biology laboratories allow training in all aspects of generation of genetically modified mice.

The department is actively participating in graduate and postgraduate teaching and is one of the teaching sites for the Neuroscience Graduate College established at Heidelberg University. The department is headed by Prof. Dusan Bartsch and employs 5 post-docs and currently trains 3 graduate students.

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L-type calcium channels in health and