Autism, Intellectual Disability

Distal mRNA localization and translation in neural stem cells during mammalian cortical development
2013 Seed Grant

Debra Silver, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Duke University

Cell division is a fundamental mechanism used by stem cells to produce more differentiated cells.  In the developing brain neural progenitors generate both neurons and progenitors during a process called neurogenesis. This process is critical for shaping the proper size, structure and function of the adult brain. When neurogenesis is aberrant, a number of neurodevelopmental disorders can arise, including microcephaly (reduced brain size), intellectual disability, and autism. We lack a fundamental understanding of how neural stem cells generate differentiated cells. In many organisms, localization of mRNAs has emerged as a conserved mechanism influencing progenitor division. Dr. Silver’s lab will test the novel hypothesis that mRNAs are asymmetrically localized and translated within basal structures of neural stem cells. They will apply innovative approaches using a tagged ribosomal protein and a tagged RNA binding protein, FMRP, to perform screens to identify genome-wide mRNAs asymmetrically localized within neural stem cells of the developing brain. Upon completion of these studies they will uncover new molecules that we predict will be critical for cell fate specification in the developing brain.  Dr. Silver anticipates these studies will open up an entirely new field of research related to regulation of neurogenesis. Moreover it will help elucidate fundamental information critical for understanding the etiology and pathology of broad neurodevelopmental disorders.

Other Grants

Rebekah C. Evans, Ph.D., Georgetown University
In Vivo and Ex Vivo Dissection of Midbrain Neuron Activity During Exercise
Exercise is important for the health of the body and the mind. Exercise promotes learning and reduces symptoms of brain-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it…
William J. Giardino, Ph.D. Stanford University
Deciphering the Neuropeptide Circuitry of Emotional Arousal in Narcolepsy
This research project aims to investigate the neural mechanisms of a specific type of brain cell called neuropeptide neurons within a region of the brain’s amygdala network called the bed…
Howard Gritton, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Attention Mechanisms Contributing to Auditory Spatial Processing.
Our world is composed of a rich mixture of sounds. We often process sounds including speech in the presence of many other competing auditory stimuli (e.g., voices in a crowded…
Nora Kory, Ph.D., Harvard University
Elucidating the Fates and Functions of Lactate in the Brain
The human brain requires significant energy to function. Despite accounting for only 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes a substantial 20% of the body’s energy, relying on a…