Microtubule-based transport in developing neurons
433 Babcock Dr
Madison, WI 53706
Cell Adhesion & Cytoskeleton; Developmental Biology & Regenerative Medicine; Membrane Biology & Protein Trafficking
Neurons are functionally and structurally polarized cells, with distinct projections that are specialized to receive and send signals (dendrites and axons, respectively). Axons and dendrites are essential for transmitting signals within a neuronal circuit, yet the molecular mechanisms that create these distinct structures have remained elusive. Our lab is addressing how neuronal polarity is created and maintained by focusing on the microtubule cytoskeleton, which has a dual function within cells: microtubules provide morphological structure and also serve as the major “highway” for the transport of proteins and organelles that are integral to neuronal function. We are combining genetic, molecular, live-cell imaging and biochemical approaches to delineate the microtubule-based mechanisms that create a polarized neuron, using the developing fruit fly as a model. Reflecting the importance of the microtubule cytoskeleton in neuronal development, multiple human neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders are linked to microtubule dysfuntion. One of our central goals is to identify the molecular and cellular etiology of human disorders arising from microtubule defects, and determine how changes in the microtubule cytoskeleton impact neuronal structure and function.