Molecules And Mechanisms Underlying Synaptic Function

Unlike our brain that has billions of neurons and trillions of synapses, the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has 302 neurons and around 7000 synapses. Our laboratory is interested in understanding two fundamental questions in synaptic biology:

  1. How do a class of tetra span protein called claudins function in neurons and synapses? To address this question we are looking at aspects of neuronal and synaptic development and function in claudin mutants and are looking at the expression pattern of claudins at the synapse. Our recent work has implicated two C. elegans claudins in maintaining normal levels of postsynaptic receptors at the neuromuscular junction.
  2. We are also interested in understanding molecules and mechanisms underlying normal locomotory behavior in C. elegans. More specifically we want to find out how small peptides (neuropeptides) that are sent out by one neuron affect the same and/or neighboring neurons and how this action by neuropeptides and their receptors affects locomotion.


Image legend: Mutants in a claudin show a reduction in acetylcholine receptor levels (red) at the neuromuscular junction. The body-wall muscles are marked in green. Image from Sharma P., Lei L., et al; 2018 and image courtesy Pallavi Sharma.

Our laboratory uses genetics, imaging techniques including neuronal imaging, FRAP, optogenetic experiments, electrophysiological recordings and cell and molecular biology techniques including CRISPR-Cas9 and RNAi to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal and synaptic function.

PI: Dr. Kavita Babu(Webpage)