Neurons display an incredible diversity of morphologies, yet neurons of a given type have characteristic forms, especially in regard to dendritic architecture. Remarkably, although dendrite arborization patterns are a hallmark of neuronal type, how neurons first establish and later maintain dendrite coverage of their receptive field remains largely unknown. My laboratory will use genetic, cell-biological, and genomic analyses to study maintenance of dendritic coverage using the Drosophila peripheral nervous system (PNS) as a model system.
How do neurons maintain type-specific dendritic coverage of their receptive field? PNS neurons maintain type-specific dendritic coverage of the larval body wall, providing a genetically tractable system to study dendrite maintenance. My lab will use a mosaic genetic screen to identify cell-autonomous regulators of the process. We hope to address several key questions about the phenomenon, including the following: Do different types of neurons maintain dendrite coverage by shared or distinct mechanisms? Are similar genes required for establishment and maintenance of recepetive field coverage? Can dendrite coverage be regenerated?
How do neurons maintain dendritic coverage even as the receptive field changes? In some situations, as in sensory systems of growing animals, neurons need to adjust their dendrite arbors to match changes of the receptive field, a phenomenon we refer to as scaling of dendrite arbors. We found that dendrite scaling involves signaling between neurons and their substrate (epithelial cells), therefore we will attempt to characterize the signals that regulate dendrite ìscalingî and how neurons respond to these signals.
Do changes in gene expression accompany different stages of neuronal development? Transcriptional regulation underlies many developmental events in neurons. We will use microarrays to characterize the developmental transcriptome in PNS neurons. Using this approach, we have identified developmentally regulated transcriptional programs, and my lab will investigate how these transcriptional programs regulate developmental transitions in post-mitotic neurons.
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Fred Hutch | University of Washington
Institute for Systems Biology (ISB)| Center for Infectious Disease Research