The RNA Biology of Neural Stem Cell Development and Synaptic Plasticity
We are fascinated to know how the fly brain develops and functions, as a model for the human brain in health and in disease. The basic mechanisms and factors regulating fly nervous system development and function are very similar to those in mammals, but the fly brain is far more tractable and easier to image in its native living state. We are focusing on elucidating the role of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in neural stem cell (neuroblast) development and their differentiation into neurons, as well as on synaptic plasticity during memory and learning. These mechanisms include mRNA transport and localised translation, as well as mRNA stability and processing. Of particular interest to us are RNAs located at the distant end of nerve cells that are used to enable quick growth of nerves and synapses a long way from the cell nucleus. We use a range of methods to study these topics, including genetics, cell biology and biochemistry in conjunction with advanced microscopy including super-resolution and single molecule imaging as well as computational and bioinformatics methods.