Dr. Steven Del Signore
I study the unique ways that neuronal synapses utilize the endocytic machinery. Despite decades of study, we still know very little about how synapses organize the proteins that control endocytosis in space and time. To answer this question, I perform live and super-resolution microscopy of the endocytic machinery at the fruit fly neuromuscular junction, and I develop new quantitative tools to analyze these data. To understand the mechanisms that control these proteins, I also study the interactions and activities of purified proteins and membranes in vitro. With these approaches, we are discovering that synapses control the endocytic machinery in ways that are quite distinct from non-neuronal cell types.
Dr. Cassandra Blanchette
Research Scientist and Lab Manager
My research is focused on the trafficking of endosomally-derived extracellular vesicles and their cargoes within an intact nervous system, using the Drosophila neuromuscular junction as a model. Extracellular vesicles are small membrane-bound vesicles released by cells that can transport physiological cargoes between cells for communication, dispose of unwanted cellular materials, and even spread pathological components between cells in disease. I’m working to understand how in neurons endosomal cargoes get sorted for release in extracellular vesicles, and how released neuronal extracellular vesicles are targeted to and/or taken up by recipient cells to exert their physiological and pathological functions.
Dr. Biljana Ermanoska
Actin is the most abundant cytoskeletal protein at presynaptic terminals, where it is implicated in many functions, ranging from vesicle mobilization and traffic to morphogenesis and stability of the synapse. However, little is known about how diverse types of actin assemblies are organized and coordinated at these sites. I aim to characterize the landscape of actin cytoskeleton in presynaptic terminals at the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction (NMJ), our favorite model synapse, by using diffraction limited and structured illumination super-resolution microscopy. In addition, I would love to learn more about the protein components other than actin itself that contribute to the formation, stability and temporal control of the actin assemblies at the NMJ.
Dr. Erica Dresselhaus
Exosomes are small extracellular vesicles released from the endosome system. Exosomes are involved in cell-to-cell communication and can also facilitate the spread of pathogenic proteins in neurodegenerative diseases. It is not fully understood how exosomes are formed in neurons; thus, I am investigating neuronal endosome dynamics (such as maturation, fusion, and trafficking) and how these dynamics affect cargo function and exosome release from the neuron. Using the Drosophila NMJ as my model system, I am using a variety of genetic manipulations and imaging techniques to investigate endosome dynamics and exosome release.
Dr. Mónica Quiñones-Frías
I’m interested in studying the role the ER has in regulating the biogenesis and trafficking of endosomes and extracellular vesicles at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction
Dr. Matthew Pescosolido
I am interested in understanding the role of extracellular vesicles in the nervous system. Using the Drosophila neuromuscular junction as a model synapse, I am examining how neuronal activity affects the cargo sorting, release, and uptake of extracellular vesicles.
I am interested in understanding how extracellular vesicles are regulated by canonical endocytic machinery. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how these proteins regulate whether certain cargoes get loaded into EVs and how they affect EV release either directly or indirectly. I use the Drosophila neuromuscular junction to answer these questions and am interested in moving to adult flies to further understand EV regulation
The Presynaptic Periactive Zone (PAZ) is a dynamic region surrounding sites of synaptic vesicle release. The PAZ is composed of dozens of proteins that work together in complex assemblies to reshape synaptic membranes alongside force generating actin polymerization. PAZ protein activity has been implicated in a wide range of functions from synaptic vesicle endocytosis and receptor trafficking to synaptic morphogenesis during development. I am interested in understanding how the higher-order organization of one of these PAZ proteins --the cellular adhesion molecule FasII-- affects the morphology and function of the synapse.
Dynamin is a large GTPase best known for its role in clathrin mediated endocytosis; however, recent studies have shown that dynamin also binds and bundles actin filaments. Therefore, I am interested in studying how dynamin’s neuronal binding partners affect this actin bundling activity and how these dynamin-actin interactions affect endocytosis in neurons. To answer these questions, I perform in vitro actin-based assays along with in vivo live, single-molecule, and super-resolution microscopy at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction to quantify actin dynamics and endocytic protein organization.
Primary mentor: Bruce Goode
I am interested in studying actin cytoskeletal protein interactions and investigating the biochemical mechanisms that underlie branched actin network stabilization and turnover responsible for proper neuronal function at the Drosophila NMJ. Using genetics and live imaging, I will determine how the effects of actin branch network regulators, Cortactin and GMF, control actin cytoskeleton dynamics, membrane traffic, and synaptic remodeling.
Former Lab Members
Galen (the more mature Shepherd/Hound mix) and his younger, spunky sidekick Rylie (a fuzzy mutt) are a constant source of adorable lab hijinks. They are responsible for peanut butter cleanup, bone collecting, and just being cute.
Sadie is a young hound who is a new member of the family!