Faculty Profiles

Jen-Wei Lin

Jen-Wei Lin

Associate Professor of Biology

PhD, SUNY-Buffalo, 1986
Areas of interest: membrane excitability and synaptic plasticity
(617) 353-3443

Current Research

My main research focus is on the biophysical events underlying transmitter release. Neurotransmitter secretion involves ion channel gating, diffusion and buffering of calcium ions, vesicular fusion as well as the mobilization and recycling of, synaptic vesicles. We use electrophysiological and imaging techniques to monitor processes underlying synaptic transmission at a high time resolution. Using the crayfish neuromuscular junction, we perform simultaneous pre- and post-synaptic recordings or voltage clamp to analyze the kinetics of transmitter release under control and facilitated conditions, and calcium sensitive dyes to monitor the dynamics of presynaptic calcium ion diffusion and buffering. We are currently focusing on mechanisms regulating the probability of transmitter release by comparing two classes of active zone residing in the same varicosity but with different release probabilities. Finally, since detailed events during the course of synaptic transmission happen at a sub-millisecond time scale and with nanometer spatial resolution, both of which are beyond the capability of current experimental techniques, we are using a mathematical modeling approach to gain insights to the behavior of calcium ions with sufficient resolution.

In addition to events occurring around the active zones, we also study the excitability of axonal branches to gain insights into the interaction between axonal excitability and transmitter release. We use voltage sensitive dyes to investigate action potentials and subthreshold activities in fine axonal branches. Recently, we have made two important advances in the study of axonal excitability. First, we can now place four electrodes in an axon simultaneously and investigate interactions between two different compartments. Second, we can now patch presynaptic varicosities. Our preliminary patch clamp findings suggest that crayfish terminals, unlike its main axonal trunk, are not excitable. Rather, terminal depolarization is mainly supported by forward charging current provided by proximal branches. These new findings suggest that axons at the crayfish opener neuromuscular junction is unique among axon-terminal model systems and can contribute to our understanding of axon-terminal excitability and synaptic transmission.

See my personal page for more details in works done in my laboratory.

Courses Taught

  • BI 325 Principles of Neuroscience
  • BI 445/645 Cellular and molecular neurophysiology

Selected Publications

  • ZS Inam, SK Nelamangala, JW Lin (2014) Application of a spike sorting procedure to analyze recordings in the crayfish ventral superficial flexor preparation: A high resolution approach to the study of neuromodulators on axons and synapses. The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE) 12:140-149
  • Lin JW (2013) Spatial gradient in the TTX sensitivity of axons at the crayfish opener neuromuscular junction. J Neurophysio 109:162-170.
  • Lin JW (2012) Spatial variation in membrane excitability modulated by 4-AP-sensitive K+ channels in the axons of the crayfish neuromuscular junction. J Neurophysiol 107: 2692-2702.
  • Lin JW (2008) Electrophysiological events recorded at presynaptic terminals of the crayfish neuromuscular junction with a voltage indicator J. Physiology 586: 4935-4950.
  • Allana T, Lin JW (2008) Effects of increasing Ca2+ channel-vesicle separation on facilitation at the crayfish inhibitory neuromuscular junction. Neuroscience1242-54.
  • Lin JW, Fu Q, Allana T (2005) Probing the endogenous Ca2+ buffers at the presynaptic terminals of the crayfish neuromuscular junction. J. Neurophysiol. 94, 377-386.
  • Lin JW, Fu Q (2005) Modulation of available vesicles and release kinetics at the inhibitor of the crayfish neuromuscular junction. Neuroscience 130:889-895.
  • Allana TN, Lin JW (2004) Relative distribution of Ca2+ channels at the crayfish inhibitory neuromuscular junction. J Neurophysiol. 92, 1491-1500.

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