Ailion, Michael

Faculty Profile

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Assistant Professor
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J341 HSB

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Research Summary: 

My lab has two projects, both employing C. elegans as a model system, and using genetics, biochemistry and imaging techniques. In one project, we study the function of neuromodulators, molecules that regulate neuronal properties to control our moods, emotions and appetites. We study how neuromodulators are packaged into dense-core vesicles, how these vesicles are trafficked and released, and how cells respond to neuromodulatory signals. We have identified a novel Rab pathway that regulates dense-core vesicle maturation, as well as a novel G protein signal transduction pathway that controls the response to neuromodulatory signals. These studies will provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms of neuromodulation and may be relevant to disorders of the nervous system such as autism, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

In our second project, we are studying the genetics of hybrid incompatibility, both in C. elegans and in other related nematodes, with the goal of identifying genes that lead to speciation events. In C. elegans, we are investigating the cellular mechanism of action of a novel selfish genetic element that mediates hybrid incompatibility between different strains. The element consists of a sperm supplied toxin and its zygotically-acting antidote. When expressed ectopically, the toxin can kill a variety of cell types. We aim to determine the mechanism of cytotoxicity and investigate possible therapeutic applications of expressing the toxin and its antidote in other organisms. We have also begun characterizing hybrid incompatibility between a pair of recently discovered Canoerhabditis species.

Short Research Description: 
Mechanisms of neuromodulation; speciation genetics
Areas of Interest: 
Cell Signaling & Cell/Environment Interactions
Genetics, Genomics & Evolution
<p> C. elegans, neurobiology, genetics, speciation, neuromodulation, neurotransmission, dense-core vesicle</p>

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