My laboratory is concerned with the development of the nervous system and understanding the mechanisms by which neurons establish neurons establish their specific connections. After birth, neurons initiate axons and dendrites that are tipped by growth cones. The latter are important structures not only for neurite elongation, pathfinding, target identification and, likely, synapse formation, but also in the regenerating nervous system, where growth cones are formed from the proximal axonal stumps of injured neurons. It is the regulation of neuronal growth cone form, especially the regulation of filopodia, that is in the center of our research.
We employ identified neurons from the pond snail Helisoma trivolvis and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons from chicks to investigate the signaling pathways by which growth cone filopodia are being regulated in length and number. With this knowledge we start to understand how extracellular signals such as trophic factors, molecules of the extracellular matrix, neurotransmitter, etc., can, by activating specific second messenger systems, stereotypically affect neuronal filopodia with likely far-reaching consequences for growth cone navigation.
In our studies we employ light microscopy, electron microscopy, immunocytochemistry, video-enhanced imaging, quantitative calcium imaging and molecular biological techniques.