Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are a critical component of the vertebrate central nervous system and mediate the majority of rapid excitatory neurotransmission. However, iGluRs are not self-regulating molecules and require additional proteins in order to function properly. Understanding the molecular architecture of functional glutamatergic synapses is therefore an important challenge in neurobiology. To address this question, we combine the techniques of genetics, molecular biology and electrophysiology in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. To date, genetic analysis has identified a number of genes required to build a glutamatergic synapse, including the CUB-domain transmembrane protein, SOL-1, which is thought to act as an auxiliary subunit that directly modifies iGluR function. Identifying and characterizing new proteins, such as SOL-1, in the relatively simple nervous system of the worm can contribute to our understanding of how more complex vertebrate nervous systems function.

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