1996: Specialist degree, Dnepropetrovsk National University, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine.
2002: PhD degree in Biology, Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, Kiev, Ukraine.
2016: Graduate certificate in University Learning and Teaching, UNSW.
2017 - current: Associate Professor, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW
2009 - 2017: Senior Lecturer, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW
2004 - 2009: Group Leader, Institute for Biosynthesis of Neuronal Structures, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology, Hamburg, Germany.
2002 - 2004: Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Biosynthesis of Neuronal Structures, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology, Hamburg, Germany.
RESEARCH INTERESTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS
In the brain, information is transmitted, processed and memorised by neurons. To perform these functions, neurons must grow and form networks, in which individual neurons are connected to other neurons by specialised contacts called synapses. Neurons use synapses to communicate with other neurons and to process and store information.
The formation and maintenance of the neuronal networks and synapses is regulated by neural cell adhesion molecules expressed at the cell surface of neurons (see our review Sytnyk et al., Trends in Neurosciences, 2017). Our laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of this regulation and effects of its loss in disease. We also develop new technologies aimed at improving brain performance, enhancing learning and maintaining memory by modulating neural cell adhesion molecules.
My early work showed that neural cell adhesion molecules are the first proteins accumulating at nascent synaptic contacts between developing neurons and that these proteins stabilize the contacts and induce their transformation into mature synapses by capturing synaptic precursor organelles (Sytnyk et al., Journal of Cell Biology, 2002, featured on the cover page). We then found that neural cell adhesion molecules regulate the key processes involved in neuronal growth and synapse formation including intracellular signalling (Leshchyns’ka et al., Journal of Cell Biology, 2003; Bodrikov et al., Journal of Cell Biology, 2005, 2008; Sheng et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2015), the assembly of the cytoskeleton (Puchkov et al., Cerebral Cortex, 2011; Li et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2013) and polarised intracellular transport (Chernyshova et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2011). We demonstrated that neural cell adhesion molecules modulate the assembly and maturation of the neurotransmitter-releasing machinery in axons (Leshchyns’ka et al., Neuron, 2006; Shetty et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2013) and neurotransmitter-detecting machinery in dendrites of neurons (Sytnyk et al., Journal of Cell Biology, 2006; Sheng et al., Cerebral Cortex, 2019).
By using a novel technique for analysis of synapses in brains of individuals affected by neurodegenerative disorders, we demonstrated that the loss of synapses in Alzheimer’s disease is linked to the degradation of synaptic neural adhesion molecules (Leshchyns’ka et al., 2015; featured at the Medical News website and others, the front page of the UNSW website and in the Newsletter (Summer 2015/16) of the Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology). Currently, we analyse mechanisms of this loss and develop strategies that can be used to prevent it. We also investigate changes in neural cell adhesion in other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease and use new transgenic mice to model abnormal function of neural cell adhesion molecules in these disorders and study its effects on the brain.