Generating synthetic myelin-like structures for molecular neuroscience


Topic  52
Main supervisor Andreas Stadler (
MLZ institution FZJ
Local supervisor 1
Christian Lang
Local supervisor 2
Local supervisor 3
Local supervisor 4
Generating synthetic myelin-like structures for molecular neuroscience

The biological membrane is a crucial component for cellular function and metabolism. Investigation of biological membrane components, characterization of their structural properties and the study of their interactions with integral and peripheral membrane proteins can provide answers to processes that are central for biology. Neutron reflectometry is a powerful experimental method that allows to study the structural properties of flat oriented membranes and their interaction with membrane proteins. Small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering are very well studied to study membranes in the vesicle state. In the past simple membrane model systems have been studied that consist only of very few different types of lipid molecules. Biological membranes as they exist in cells are, however, far more complex. They consist of a large variety of different lipid molecules and intrinsically have an asymmetric distribution of lipids between their inner and outer membrane leaflets. Furthermore, curvature effects play an important role. The myelin sheath – a multi-double-bilayer membrane wrapped around axons – is an essential part of the nervous system which enables rapid signal conduction. Damage of this complex membrane system results in demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

In the suggested GNeuS project asymmetric myelin membranes will be generated using Langmuir-Schäfer deposition and their interaction with the myelin basic protein will be studied using neutron and X-ray reflectometry. The role of curvature for the myelin assembly process into ordered multilamellar layers will be investigated using SAXS and SANS. The preparation of asymmetric membranes will be established at MLZ and the quality of the samples characterized with complementary techniques such as X-ray reflectometry or AFM.

Fellows will learn fabrication and characterization of asymmetric biological membranes using scattering techniques and gain experience both in science and industry.