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Darrell Killian

Colorado College
Molecular Biology
The role of RNA-binding proteins in dendrite development in C. elegans
The regulation of dendritic branching is critical for sensory reception, cell-cell communication within the nervous system, learning, memory, and behavior. Defects in dendrite morphology are associated with several neurological disorders and thus an understanding of the molecular mechanisms that govern dendrite morphogenesis is important. Recent investigations of dendrite morphogenesis have highlighted the importance of gene regulation at the post-transcriptional level. Since RNA-binding proteins mediate many post-transcriptional mechanisms, we decided to investigate the extent to which conserved RNA-binding proteins contribute to dendrite morphogenesis across phyla. Here we identify a core set of RNA-binding proteins that are important for dendrite morphogenesis in the PVD multidendritic sensory neuron in Caenorhabditis elegans. Homologs of each of these genes were previously identified as important in the Drosophila dendritic arborization sensory neurons. Our results suggest that RNA processing, mRNA localization, mRNA stability, and translational control are all important mechanisms that contribute to dendrite morphogenesis, and we present a conserved set of RNA-binding proteins that regulate these processes in diverse animal species. Furthermore, homologs of these genes are also expressed in the human brain and several of them have altered expression in patients with neurological disorders.
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