Description: delta-Catenin and the shaping of Neurons/ Dendrites.
An intriguing question in neuron developmental biology is how the shape of dendrites is determined. For example, such choices of cell shape affects how dendrites interact with axons or other entities, thus influencing brain function. We find that delta-catenin, via phospho-dependent associations with either of two novel proteins of opposing activities, promotes either dramatic dendrite branching or dendrite lengthing.
By employing primary rat hippocampal cultures as well as Xenopus embryos to assess in vivo outcomes, we propose to identify both the upstream pathways involved (e.g. ligands and kinases), and the downstream mediators (e.g. cytoskeletal modulators) that foster these dramatic branching versus lengthening outcomes. In summary, our work aims to advance basic understanding of normal neuron development using primary and in vivo systems. It is also noteworthy that delta-catenin and its two partner proteins are each strongly implicaed in neuro-developmental disorders and cancer.
Environment: The PI values and has been recognized for his contributions in trainee mentorship. Within the Texas Medical Center, MDACC provides world-class resources and opportunities, and we enjoy walking access to our neighboring institutions (Baylor SOM, Rice U, Methodist RI, UTHealth, & TX A&M IBT). Houston is a strikingly multicultural, affordable and cosmopolitan city that adjoins the Gulf of Mexico.
Pierre McCrea PhD, Dept Genetics, UT MD Anderson Can Ctr, Houston TX