During development, neurons make precise connections with their target
organs. The taste system is ideal for examining how these connections
arise during development, because specific numbers of primary taste afferents
project to discrete regions of the oral cavity.
My laboratory has two long terms goals:
- to determine the cellular and molecular mechanisms that allow gustatory
neurons to innervate the correct target (taste buds) with a specific
amount of innervation, and
- to determine if and/or how these connections are important for central
gustatory development or taste function.
Our current research focuses on the role of neurotrophins in regulating
gustatory neuron number and peripheral and central targeting during development.
We plan to
- determine when and where the embryonic taste system is exposed to
the neurotrophins brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin
- determine when BDNF and NT4 regulate gustatory neuron number and
whether this regulation is accomplished by reducing proliferation or
by increasing cell death,
- determine whether BDNF and/or NT4 is required for initial target invasion,
- determine if BDNF and/or NT4 regulate the central distribution of
tongue and palatal sensory afferents.
These studies test the hypothesis that BDNF and NT4 each influence different
developmental processes at distinct stages of embryonic taste system development.
Ultimately, we plan to extend these findings to understand how these developmental
processes contribute to adult taste system function and the role of neurotrophins
in adult gustatory plasticity.
Many of our pages require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader