Gene Manipulation: Possible Links to Schizophrenia and Autism

Novel Approach to Gene Manipulation in a Cerebral Cortical Signaling Center
2010 Seed Grant
Elizabeth Grove, Ph.D.
Department of Neurobiology
The University of Chicago

The mammalian cerebral cortex is responsible for higher functions of the brain, such as perception, cognition and memory.  My lab focuses on how the developing cortex is organized into different areas specialized for different functions.  We have found that cell groups, called signaling centers, at the edges of the embryonic cortex, release signaling proteins that form gradients across the cortical tissue.  These protein gradients provide positional information that directs the development of the cortical “area map”.  Interestingly, these signaling centers are close to regions of the cortex implicated in human mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, suggesting that perturbations of the signaling centers in development could have serious consequences on mental health.  In this project, I propose to establish, in mice, a new way to perturb signaling in one of these signaling centers, termed the cortical hem.  This new approach should allow us to uncover the functions of this and other signaling centers with great precision, and to determine what goes wrong with cortical development when these centers do not function properly.