Axon Guidance and Regeneration

Our research goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying the guidance of nerve growth in the developing and regenerating nervous system. During embryonic development, newly born neurons extend neurites that can grow long distances to reach target cells, thus establishing the intricate wiring of the nervous system. Growth cones at the tips of growing neurites guide this process by sensing attractive and repulsive cues in the immediate environment and transducing guidance information into intracellular signals to induce growth and directed motility. Unfortunately, relatively little is known about these signals or the molecular identity of downstream effectors that mediate either attraction or repulsion. Our studies utilize a relatively simple model system to characterize the intracellular signaling events that mediate the guidance of nerve growth. We grow neurons in cell culture from embryonic central nervous system tissue that is isolated from rats, mice and Xenopus tadpoles to observe their directed growth and intracellular signaling events with varying conditions. We hope that by better understanding these processes in the normal developing nervous system, we will gain insight into methods that can be used to overcome inhibition to nerve growth in the adult central nervous system.