Our lab is focused on understanding how neurons set up elaborate structures that are tailored to send and receive electrical signals over large distances and through complex networks of connections. Neurons undergo dynamic structural changes in response to external growth cues during development as well as learning and memory, and die back in the absence of positive growth cues. These growth cues are received at the cell surface and are trafficked into the cell via a network of membrane-bound compartments called endosomes.
We still do not understand the identity of the internal compartments from which growth cues signal, the special properties of those compartments that enable signaling to occur, and ultimately how the hundreds of proteins that make up the membrane traffic machinery can themselves be regulated to tune signaling up or down. These receptor trafficking events are implicated in neuronal diseases ranging from neurodegenerative disease to mental retardation and addiction, underlining the health importance of understanding how signal transduction is modulated by intracellular membrane traffic in neurons.
We use a combination of biochemistry, genetics, and live imaging in the fruit fly nervous system to unravel the molecular mechanisms by which the traffic of signaling receptors that control the architecture of synapses is regulated by interacting networks of membrane remodeling proteins.