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Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics

Houston, Texas

A BCM research lab.
Structural and Computational Biology & Molecular Biophysics
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Peter Saggau, Ph.D.

Peter Saggau, Ph.D.Professor, Neuroscience

Baylor College of Medicine


B.S. EE/Communications Engineering, Technical College Ulm, Germany (1973)
M.S. EE/Cybernetics, Technical University Munich, Germany (1977)
Ph.D. Neuroscience, University of Munich, Germany (1988)

Research Interests:

The research interests in the Saggau Lab are twofold: First, to understand the biophysics of central mammalian neurons that control both the communication between cells and their individual computational properties Second, to develop advanced optical imaging tools for studying living brain tissue that help us to achieve the first goal.

Our lab mainly focuses on synaptic transmission and dendritic integration. We have described the short-term modulation of voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCCs) in presynaptic terminals, where the transient influx of Ca2+ determines the timing and amount of neurotransmitter release. We have also studied postsynaptic VDCCs and their modulation in dendritic spines, where transient Ca2+ elevations can trigger long-term changes in synaptic transmission, such as LTP and LTD. Further, we are probing dendritic signal integration by investigating spatio-temporal summation of individual synaptic inputs.

Techniques used in our lab to address these and other challenging Neuroscience issues include high-speed micro-photometry, as well as combined whole-cell patch clamp and confocal/multiphoton microscopy. We also employ realistic computational models that are constrained by the morphology of automatically reconstructed living neurons.

Our lab is actively involved in developing advanced optical techniques to overcome the technical difficulties inherent in stimulating and recording in the very fine structures of neuronal dendrites and synapses. We are developing imaging systems based on standing wave microscopy that support studying sub-resolution structures in living tissue. We have developed next generation optical stimulation and recording systems with improved spatio-temporal resolution based on multiphoton excitation by acousto-optic control of near infrared ultra-fast laser pulses. These advanced techniques are employed for three-dimensional structural and functional optical imaging in intact neural tissue and can provide new insights into normal and pathological brain function.

Selected Publications:

  • Losavio BE, Iyer V, Patel S and Saggau P. Acousto-optic scanning for multi-site photo-stimulation of single neurons in vitro. J Neural Engl, 7(4):045002 (2010). PubMed
  • Yuan T, Gao SS, Saggau P and Oghalai JS. Calcium imaging of inner ear hair cells within the cochlear epithelium of mice using two-photon microscopy. J Biomed Opt, 15(1):016002 (2010). PubMed
  • Losavio BE, Iyer V and Saggau P. Two-photon microscope for multisite microphotolysis of caged neurotransmitters in acute brain slices. J Biomed Opt, 14(6):064033 (2009). PubMed
  • Gliko O, Saggau P and Brownell WE. Compartmentalization of the outer hair cell demonstrated by slow diffusion in the extracisternal space. Biophys J, 97(4):1215-24 (2009). PubMed
  • Mancuso JJ, Larson AM, Wensel TG and Saggau P. Multiphoton adaptation of a commercial low-cost confocal microscope for live tissue imaging. J Biomed Opt, 14(3):034048 (2009). PubMed
  • Gliko O, Brownell WE and Saggau P. Fast two-dimensional standing-wave total-internal-reflection fluorescence microscopy using acousto-optic deflectors. Opt Lett, 34(6):836-8 (2009). PubMed
  • Losavio BE, Liang Y, Santamaria-Pang A, Kakadiaris IA, Colbert CM and Saggau P. Live neuron morphology automatically reconstructed from multiphoton and confocal imaging data. J Neurophysiol, 100(4):2422-9 (2008). PubMed

For more publications, see listing on PubMed.

Contact Information:

Department: Division of Neuroscience
Address: Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza
Room S734A
Houston, TX 77030
Phone: 713-798-5082
Fax: 713-798-3946
Additional Links: Neuroscience

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