The Axon Initial Segment Biology team is live!

22 November 2022

Amelie Freal, head of the team, joined CNCR earlier this year and is developing an independent research program on axon initial segment biology at FGA.

The axon initial segment (AIS) is located at the base of the axon and is well known for its role in action potentials firing. Indeed, the molecular organization of the AIS dictates the generation of action potentials, and thereby shapes the principal output of neurons. Although the AIS has long been considered as a static and passive structure, recent work from my lab and others demonstrated that changes in network activity induces robust plasticity of the AIS, causing long-lasting changes in excitability. Therefore, this specialized compartment is emerging as a central player in network plasticity. The aim of our lab is to unravel the molecular basis of the axon initial segment adaptive capabilities.

The first time I stained for an axon initial segment protein was during my master internship in Paris Sorbonne University, where I also did my PhD. I investigated how the axon initial segment is assembled in vivo during embryonic development in motor neurons. I moved to the Netherlands for my post-doc (Utrecht University, Casper Hoogenraad’s lab) to unravel the role of the cytoskeleton in the organization of the membrane complex at the axon initial segment. Then, I obtained a NWO-Veni grant to address the mechanisms of axon initial segment plasticity and developed various tools to study sodium channel regulation during plasticity (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Maarten Kole’s lab).
I joined the CNCR in May 2022 and together with Ana Rita Cunha (PhD candidate) and Thijmen Ligthart (Master student) we are setting up the lab and starting exciting science!
Outside of the lab, I love hiking and skiing. I am a foodie who loves to cook (not only French cuisine!) and discover new flavors, and I am the mum of two (most of time) adorable children.