The precise yet dynamic networking among nerve cells is the cellular basis of many if not all brain functions. To establish and maintain this neuronal network, neurons adopt a highly specialized yet dynamic morphology; the formation and modulation of this specialization requires precisely targeted membrane addition to designated plasma membrane sites. The research focus of our lab is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of this vesicle targeting process. We use biochemical, immunochemical, cell biological and molecular biological approaches to identify components of the vesicle targeting pathway and study how regulation of these molecules affect neuronal development and regeneration.
We have identified and isolated the mammalian rsec6/8 complex, a set of proteins involved in targeting vesicles to potential presynaptic sites during synapse formation and to neuronal growth cones during neuronal development. We are investigating the function of this complex in vesicle targeting and using this complex as a molecular handle to identify other protein constituents of this process. Our goal is to use a multi-disciplinary approach to elucidate the biochemical events underlying secretory vesicle trafficking and to study how this process is regulated by cellular signaling pathways during neuronal growth, differentiation and regeneration.