The fully mapped out nervous system has allowed us to develop methods to examine synapse plasticity during learning and memory formation with cellular, synaptic and molecular precision. How are synapses affected by prolonged signaling and do these changes result in memory formation? Where is the engram for memory? Our goal is to build tools to watch RNA handling in neurons in real time as they learn about odor.
AWC olfactory neuron with GRASP puncta
Image by Torsten Wittmann
Small RNA in Neuronal Function and Beyond...
Neuronal signaling affects physiology as a whole and, in particular, RNA biology. Previous findings from our lab show that the nuclear RNAi pathway is important for odor learning. (Juang et al., Cell 2013) We are investigating the biogenesis of these small RNAs in the neuron upon olfactory stimulation. Once formed, how might such RNA based or elicited signals get out of the neuron? And finally, once in their target tissue, what is the function of small RNAs in maintaining cell populations and tissue integrity?
DAPI and HTP-3 staining of the wild type C.elegans germ line
Images by Aarati Asundi in collaboration with Gina Caldas (Dernburg lab)