Understanding synaptic genes

International collaboration reveals important characteristics of neuron connectors

A collaboration of 15 laboratories around the world, including the laboratory of researcher Peter McPherson at The Neuro, has built a database of synaptic genes that is already revealing interesting characteristics of synapses.

The 15 laboratories have partnered with the Gene Ontology (GO) Consortium to release a public knowledge base, www.SYNGOportal.org, which represents our current knowledge of synapses in structured frameworks, called ontologies. The release of these data, known as SYNGO 1.0, is supported by the first scientific publication in the leading journal Neuron.

Synapses, the specialized contacts between brain cells, are the fundamental information processing units of the brain and synaptic dysregulation is central to many brain disorders. Systematic information resources for the synapse are currently lacking.

In their paper published in Neuron, the authors use SYNGO 1.0 to show that synaptic genes are exceptionally well conserved in evolution and much less tolerant to mutations than other (brain-expressed) genes. The authors also show that many synaptic genes are significantly overrepresented among gene variation associated with intelligence, educational attainment, ADHD, autism and bipolar disorder. Synaptic genes are also strongly overrepresented among de novo variants associated with neurodevelopmental disorders including schizophrenia.

SYNGO 1.0 is releasing 2,922 ontology-based descriptions of 1,112 unique synaptic genes, compiling published experimental information about the localization and function of the gene-products at synapses, according to standardized principles. This compiled information is both human-readable and machine-readable. SYNGO is fully integrated in the GO knowledge base, the world’s largest source of information on the functions of genes.

The Synapse community

SYNGO was established by Steven Hyman and Guoping Feng of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (Cambridge, MA, USA) and coordinated by Guus Smit and Matthijs Verhage of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and, for the GO Consortium, Paul Thomas at the University of Southern California.

SYNGO started with building consensus ontology, annotation and curation by key opinion leaders in the field. The current SYNGO database relies on the active participation of the Synapse community, together forming the contributors to new entries. SYNGO has a transparent, open structure for synaptic annotation with minimal a priori decisions.

If you would like more information about SYNGO, please e-mail Matthijs Verhage at matthijs [at] cncr.vu.nl or Guus Smit at  guus.smit [at] cncr.vu.nl

Source: Broad Institute

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