Graduate Program in Neuroscience

Olivia Bermingham-McDonogh


Phone: 206-616-4652
Dept.: Professor, Department of Biological Structure
Neuroscience Focus Group:
Lab Link


My work is aimed at understanding why the auditory hair cells of the bird regenerate while those of the mammalian auditory system do not. My current focus is on receptor tyrosine kinases and their signaling pathways in the hair cells and supporting cells. In a screen of receptor tyrosine kinases in inner ear of the chicken, I found a number of different receptors expressed, and am currently concentrating on the FGF receptor family. FGFR3, is highly expressed in a specific set of supporting cells in the chicken sensory receptor epithelium (also known as the basilar papilla). This gene is specifically downregulated in these cells during the regeneration process. I am currently investigating whether the downregulation of this gene is critical to the process of regeneration. I am also interested in the role of FGFs and FGFRs in the development of the mammalian cochlea. I am particularly interested in the role of FGFR3 in the development of the tunnel of Corti. In the FGFR3 knockout mouse the tunnel fails to develop and the mice are deaf. I am looking at what transcription factors are activated by FGF signaling to identify the important factors governing the development of the Pillar cells that line the tunnel. In addition I am interested in what FGFs are expressed in the developing cochlea and using PCR hope to find the FGFs that are required for the postnatal development of the organ of Corti.