GABAergic Neurons

Males and females of most species display pronounced sexual dimorphisms.  These extend to the nervous systems and include distinct anatomical and functional features, which are ultimately manifested in behavioral differences (Kandel, 2000).  It is essential to understand the molecular mechanisms responsible for generating and maintaining these sex-specific differences.  We are developing a system in which these mechanisms can be studied in a framework of a well-established model species and a well-characterized group of neurons.

The GABAergic neurons of Caenorhabditis elegans have been studied in hermaphrodites (these animals are genetically equivalent to females of other species), but no in males.  We have discovered that the GABAergic system of C.elegans males differs form that of hermaphrodites in two important aspects.  First, a number of neurons that are unique to males utilize GABA as a neurotransmitter.  Second, several neurons that are common to both sexes utilize GABA in males, but not hermaphrodites.  Based on these preliminary findings, we propose a series of experiments to document the extent of sex-specific dimorphism in the GABAergic system of C. Elegans and to investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for these differences.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The role of microglial lysosomes in selective neuronal vulnerability
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How the nervous system constructs internal models of the external world
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Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the orchestra of movement—functional role of striatal astrocytes in health and disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…