Research Interests: |
The overall goal of my research is to understand molecular and cellular bases of neuronal communication in the central nervous system. In particular, we are interested in elucidating genes and signaling cascades that regulate neural circuits, mediating higher brain functions and coordinated behaviors. A fruitful approach to attack this formidable challenge is to utilize a model experimental organism, which allows us to systematically identify and genetically manipulate each component of the circuit in order to assay its function. In this study, we have chosen the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to identify genes involved in fundamental features of brain cell function including neuronal excitability, synaptic transmission & plasticity, and neuromodulation. We are also very interested in utilizing Drosophila as a model animal to study neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson′s disease (PD). Recently, an intriguing PD model has been developed by engineering transgenic flies that express the human alpha-synuclein protein (Feany and Bender, 2000). These transgenic animals exhibit typical anatomical and behavioral symptoms of PD, including an age-dependent loss of dopaminergic neurons, filamentous inclusion of Lewy Bodies and locomotor dysfunction. In our laboratory, we are going to establish an in vitro model to study the selective loss of dopaminergic neurons and to explore the mechanisms underlying alpha-synuclein induced parkinsonianism.