Graduate Training in Neuroscience
University of Washington
Dana L. Miller
Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry
Organisms monitor external conditions and occasionally must initiate adaptation, often at the cellular level, to adapt to new environments. The Miller lab works to identify neuronal mechanisms that coordinate cellular adaptation to changing conditions. Our goal is to understand the pathways that can maintain neuronal and organismal homeostasis in stressful conditions. We currently focus on mechanisms that coordinate adaptation to low oxygen (hypoxia), and the mechanistic basis for the protective effects of hydrogen sulfide signaling. Neurons are particularly sensitive to damage from hypoxia, which contributes to cellular damage and death resulting from stroke. We have also recently become interested in elucidating how these pathways influence protein aggregation and neurodegeneration. We primarily use the nematode C. elegans as a model to discover novel factors that are involved in these processes. The worm is a facile system to map out neuronal pathways that coordinate organism adaptations to hypoxia, as well as the factors that mediate the fundamental cellular processes that contribute to neurodegeneration. We are also mapping the neuromodulators that coordinate organism-wide adaptive responses to adverse hypoxic conditions.
This is a epifluorescence image of two different C. elegans strains. In one strain, RFP is being expressed in the two bilaterally-symmetrical AIY interneurons (psuedocolored magenta). AIY neurons are important for integrating information from the environment into organism physiology. The other strain expressed YFP fused to a polyglutamine repeat in the body wall muscles (psuedocolored in green). As in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, the polyglutamine repeats lead to the aggregation of the YFP that can be visualized as bright foci (pink/white). ( images were taken by Harley Childs and Jill Groulik).