My laboratory investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms of axon degeneration, which renders neurons and their networks dysfunctional in many disease contexts. Axons extend for over a meter in many vertebrates, and their peculiar cytoarchitecture with their length exceeding over 10,000 times the dimension of the cell body makes them particularly vulnerable to damage. In humans, axon degeneration occurs in numerous pathological conditions, ranging from neurodegeneration, inflammation and aging to metabolic diseases. Axon loss contributes to several overt symptoms in these conditions and it often occurs early in the disease, clearly preceding cell body death.
This degenerative process is regulated by specific molecules, but its network of signaling remains largely unknown. We study which proteins and posttranslational modifications control these signaling cascades. With a better understanding we hope to modulate the rate of axon degeneration, to either decrease the loss of neuronal connectivity and function, or to enhance regeneration.
We have recently identified the murine E3 ubiquitin ligase, Phr1, as a modulator of both axon degeneration (Babetto et al., 2013 Cell Reports) and regeneration (unpublished). We are testing the role of Phr1 in chronic conditions of axon injury, to evaluate its effectiveness in several mouse models of disease (i.e. Charcot-Marie-Tooth, stroke, taxol neuropathy etc).
Student Skill-Set Needed: Critical thinking, commitment to science, attention to details, enthusiasm
Available: Fall, Spring, Summer
For further information on this opportunity, or to apply, contact:
Faculty Member: Elisabetta Babetto
Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Pharmacology And Toxicology