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This week we profile a recent publication in eLife from the lab of
Dr. Kota Mizumoto at UBC with first author Mizuki Kurashina (pictured).

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

The Mizumoto lab studies the fundamental mechanisms of how our brain develops. In particular, we focus on the specific cellular interface called synapses that the nerve cells use to send and receive information. The number and position of synapses are tightly controlled because it is essential for our brains to function properly. To uncover the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying precise control of synapse number and position, we use non-parasitic nematode (C. elegans) as our experimental model. Because genes and proteins that control synapse formation and function are very similar between C. elegans and humans, the knowledge obtained from our research will help us better understand how our nerve cells controls synapse formation.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

To our brain to be functional, each nerve cell has to know its identity or cell fate. The cell fate of the nerve cells is determined by a group of proteins called cell date determinants. Interestingly, these cell fate determinants remain in the nerve cells well after the cell fates of the nerve cells are set, while their functions other than the cell fate determination is poorly understood. In this study, by using a combination of imaging and genetics approach, we showed that one of the cell fate determinants called UNC-4 functions in precise patterning of the synapses independent of its roles in cell fate determination.

What are the next steps for this research?

There are many cell fate determinants whose roles outside of well fate determination is not well studied. We are curious to know how they control the formation of precise nervous system, especially in synapse patterning, which is crucial for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Funding Sources:

This work is supported by CIHR, CFI, HFSP. Kota Mizumoto is supported by CRC and MSFHR (co-funded by Parkinson Society BC).


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