Program: Neuroscience Training Program
Education: B.S. University of Illinois at Chicago
Major: Biological Sciences (w/honors)
A neuron acquires polarity as its neurites are differentiated to axon or dendrites through development. Establishment of axon and dendrites is critical for the function of neurons as an information processing unit. My thesis project is focused on elucidating molecular events that take place during the development of neuronal polarity. Specifically, I am studying subcellular trafficking of organelles and proteins in developing neurites in order to determine molecular mechanisms that make axons distinct from dendrites. It is also of interest to test whether proteins and organelles localized to axons are ever shared with somatodendritic domain and vice versa.
To this end, different vesicular proteins and organelle markers are tagged using the photoactivatable-GFP, which enables visualization of a subset of proteins within a specific neuronal compartment. This allows us to track the fate of these proteins/organelles over time, and study the dynamics of both anterograde and retrograde transport in cultured neurons. In addition, by examining neurons at different stages of development, we are able to follow changes in modes of subcellular trafficking throughout neuronal development. Outcomes of my project will shed light on treatment of neurodegenerative diseases that involve abnormal protein/organelle trafficking, e.g. Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Niemann-Pick Type C Disease.