MDI Biological Laboratory
Scientific Advisory Board

Andres Villu Maricq, M.D., Ph.D.

Andres Villu Maricq, M.D., Ph.D is the Founding Director at the Center for Cell and Genome Science and Professor of Neurobiology at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

My research explores the molecular machinery that contributes to the information-processing capabilities of the nervous system, with a focus on the regulation and function of synaptic transmission. I use an interdisciplinary approach to address research questions, drawing upon my training and experience in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, electrophysiology, biophysics and genetics. I have decades-long experience in the teaching, training and mentoring of students and postdoctoral fellows. We have focused on the molecular machinery that contributes to the establishment and function of synapses in the model organism C. elegans. In studies of glutamatergic synapses, we have identified evolutionarily conserved auxiliary proteins that contribute to the function of AMPA-type ionotropic glutamate receptors (AMPARs), leading to a new concept of an AMPAR signaling complex. We also study the trafficking and transport of AMPARs, and have found that kinesin-1 microtubule-dependent motors and a Ca2+- and calmodulin-dependent kinase (CaMKII) have fundamental roles in the delivery, removal and redistribution of synaptic AMPARs. Additionally, we study the properties of NMDA and kainate receptors and their contribution to synaptic function and the control of behavior. We are now fascinated by the question of how synaptic transmission changes with aging and the synaptopathies might be common to many neurodegenerative disorders. We find that synaptic function and transport of synaptic AMPAR decreases with aging as well as in transgenic models of Alzheimer’s disease. In summary, our research is driven by two major goals: first, to obtain a mechanistic, soup-to-nuts understanding of how synapses are built, how synapses contribute to information processing by neural circuits, and ultimately how synapses and neural circuits give rise to complex behaviors, including learning and memory; second, to obtain a molecular-based understanding of how synaptic function changes during aging and in neurodegenerative disorders.