Motor Neurons

Neuronal diversity is a hallmark of the vertebrate nervous system. Our goal is to understand how neuronal diversity is generated in the vertebrate embryonic spinal cord. Vertebrate genomes have a limited number of genes. Mechanisms that can amplify the number of pretein insoforms encoded by these genes are likely to playa critical role in specification of multiple neuronal subtypes. Alternative splicing ofpre-mRNAs is one such mechanism. It is estimated that in vertebrates splicing ofpre mRNAs generates a large proportion (30-60%) of mRNAs. Factors that regulate cell type specific alternative splicing of pre-mRNAs are likely to playa critical role in generation of neuronal diversity. We propose to investigate the role of splicing factors in generation of motor neuron diversity in the spinal cord and test whether these factors regulate alternative splicing of pre-mRNAs that encode preteins required for motor neuron development.
At this time stem cells are thought to be the most promising therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. In two devastating disease conditions, ALS and SMA, motor neurons in the spinal cord degenerate. Can these cells be replaced? Our research is focused on understanding how motor neurons are generated. We wish to learn from the embryos how to make motor neurons from simple precursors. Our findings would find direct use in targeting stem cells to a motor neuron fate.

Other Grants

Sarah C. Goetz, Ph.D., Duke University
Uncovering a Novel Role for Primary Cilia in Eph/Ephrin Signaling in Neurons
2022 Seed GrantSarah C. Goetz, Ph.D. Duke University Women’s Council Seed Grant Primary cilia are tiny projections from cells that function like an antenna- they receive and may also send…
Erin M. Gibson, Ph.D., Stanford University
Circadian Regulation of Oligodendroglial Senescence and Metabolomics in Aging
2022 Seed GrantErin M. Gibson, Ph.D.Stanford University The brain consists of two main classes of cells, neurons and glia. Glia make-up more than half of the cells in the brain…
Yvette Fisher, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Dynamic Modulation of Synaptic Plasticity During Spatial Exploration
2022 Seed GrantYvette Fisher, Ph.D.University of California, Berkeley The Virginia (Ginny) & Roger Carlson Seed Grant Cognitive flexibility is critical for appropriately adjusting thoughts and behaviors to meet changing demands…
Byoung Il Bae, Ph.D., University of Connecticut
Unique Vulnerability of Developing Human Cerebral Cortex to Loss of Centrosomal Protein
2022 Seed GrantByoung Il Bae, Ph.D.University of Connecticut Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation Seed Grant The cerebral cortex is the largest and outermost part of the human brain. It is…