Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
University of Pennsylvania
1210 Biomedical Research Building II
421 Curie Boulevard
BIOGRAPHY AND RESEARCH INTERESTS
Genetic control of axonal guidance and neural circuit formation in the zebrafish embryo:
Research in the lab focuses on two aspects of nervous system assembly. One set of projects focuses on how motor axons find their way to their muscle targets. In genetic screens we have identified several mutants in which motor axons go astray: instead of finding their correct targets, they get lost in the maze. Through the analysis of these mutants, we have identified a specialized group of cells producing multiple signals. Each of the signals is essential for motor axons to navigate particular portions of the maze. A central focus in the lab is now to understand the molecular mechanisms by which these signals direct axons.
A second set of projects focuses on neural circuits relevant to neuropsychiatric disease. To navigate their local environment, animals integrate a multitude of sensory information to appropriately modulate their motor behaviors. In vertebrates, a prominent motor behavior elicited by abrupt sensory stimuli, is the startle response. The startle response is mediated by neural architecture that appears conserved amongst vertebrates, including zebrafish and mammals. In humans, deficits in modulating the acoustic startle response are a feature of several complex genetic psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. The goal of our studies is to establish the zebrafish as a model system to study the genetic basis of acoustic startle response regulation and thereby to identify genetic lesions underlying abnormal motor control in psychiatric diseases.