Dragomir Milovanovic
Molecular Neuroscience
Dr. Dragomir Milovanovic
Group Leader
Charitéplatz 1
10117  Berlin

 +49 30 450 539-833

Areas of investigation/research focus

Neurotransmission relies on the tight spatial and temporal regulation of the synaptic vesicle (SV) cycle. The average nerve terminal contains large amounts of presynaptic proteins, above 100 mg/ml according to quantitative analyses, and SVs, mitochondria and other organelles occupy nearly half of the volume of the nerve terminal. The average nerve terminal contains large amounts of presynaptic proteins, above 100 mg/ml according to quantitative analyses, and nearly half of the volume of the nerve terminal is occupied by SVs, mitochondria and other organelles. We are fascinated by how cytosol remains soluble to allow metabolic processes to occur concomitantly in space and time. The goal of Milovanovic Lab is to understand: How is the spatial organization of organelles and macromolecules regulated in the crowded environment of the cytosol at the nerve terminal? 

 more Infos

We hypothesize that the presence of intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs)–low amino acid complexity sequences that do not fold into any stable secondary or tertiary structure—plays an essential role in balancing the solubility with the spatial patterning. Many proteins involved in the synaptic vesicle recycling contain long IDRs. Recently, it was shown that synapsin 1, a highly abundant synaptic protein, forms a distinct liquid phase in an aqueous environment (Fig. 1) (Milovanovic et al., 2018). Synapsin condensates are reaction centers able to sequester lipid vesicles. This mechanism helped to explain how hundreds of SVs are kept into distinct clusters while maintaining their high mobility (Milovanovic and De Camilli, 2017). 

Significance. Given the central roles of proteins with IDRs in the pathology of many neurodegenerative diseases, our work will open new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to combat these diseases. For example, a-synuclein is involved in a family of diseases that include Parkinson's and Dementia with Lewy Bodies and contains an IDR. Tau, another neuronal protein that contains an IDR, is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Neuronal RNA-binding proteins such as hnRNPA1, FUS, TDP43 are all linked to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Dementia and contain IDRs. Classically, the hallmark of the abovementioned neurodegenerative diseases is misfolding and aggregation of these proteins/their IDRs. Strikingly, the recent analysis of human postmortem brain tissues of Parkinson's patients shows that aggregates are, in fact, a crowded medley of vesicular structures. Hence, it is of crucial importance to understand the underlying mechanisms that keep these central organellar components soluble and functional in the crowded environment of the nerve terminal.

Key Publications

Milovanovic D, Wu Y, Bian X, De Camilli P. A liquid phase of synapsin and lipid vesicles. Science. 2018 Jan 01;
Milovanovic D, De Camilli P. Synaptic Vesicle Clusters at Synapses: A Distinct Liquid Phase?. Neuron. 2017 Jan 01;
Milovanovic D, Jahn R. Organization and dynamics of SNARE proteins in the presynaptic membrane. Front Physiol. 2015 Jan 01;
Milovanovic D, Honigmann A, Koike S, Göttfert F, Pähler G, Junius M, Müllar S, Diederichsen U, Janshoff A, Grubmüller H, Risselada HJ, Eggeling C, Hell SW, van den Bogaart G, Jahn R. Hydrophobic mismatch sorts SNARE proteins into distinct membrane domains. Nat Commun. 2015 Jan 01;
Milovanovic D, Platen M, Junius M, Diederichsen U, Schaap I, Honigmann A, Hell SW, van den Bogaart G, Jahn R. Calcium induces syntaxin 1 mesoscale domain formation through phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2016 Jan 01;


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