Uncovering a Novel Role for Primary Cilia in Eph/Ephrin Signaling in Neurons

2022 Seed Grant
Sarah 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 signals to the cell’s microenvironment. These structures are found on most types of cells in mammalian tissues and are important for the development as well as maintenance of many organs and tissues. In the brain and nervous system, cilia are important for establishing and maintaining the shape of neurons and regulating their connections. Despite their importance in the brain, we do not fully understand what signaling pathways are regulated by the cilia of neurons, or how cilia regulate these signals. In our prior work, my lab undertook a unique labeling approach to identify new signaling molecules that are found within the cilia of neurons in the brains of living mice. In the course of this study, we identified a group of signaling proteins important for regulating the migration of neurons as well as for determining the path of axons. In this study, we will begin to examine how cilia regulate these signals and whether mutations that affect the structure of cilia can affect the outputs of these pathways. This work will provide us with an understanding of the mechanisms by which cilia regulate the development, function, and viability of neurons. More broadly, this work will lead to a greater understanding of the cellular basis of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, both of which are linked to dysfunction of primary cilia.

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