Synaptotagmin’s Role in Nerve Cell Outgrowth and Branching Patterns

Posted May 10th, 2010 at 2:18 pm.

RaElle Jackson, Nana Asabere

Mentor: Professor Karen Greif

Neurons convey the many messages of the nervous system by releasing substances called neurotransmitters, chemicals which facilitate communication between nerve cells. They are connected by extensions called processes that protrude from the cell body and allow for interaction. Synaptotagmins (syt) are proteins that allow for the ultimate release of neurotransmitters, and are thus an important component of cell communication. In previously conducted studies, it has been found that syt is expressed in neurons in the very early stages of cell development. This may indicate that syt plays other roles in the developing nerve cell, seeing that cells do not typically expend energy synthesizing unnecessary materials. It is believed that syt may play an important role in process outgrowth and branching patterns of developing nerve cells, but this hypothesis has not been extensively studied. This study seeks to understand the effect of syt on the way processes extend, retract, and branch off from the cell body via a technique called RNA interference. RNA interference is a powerful gene-silencing technique, which if effective should decrease the amount of the syt present in cells and allow for the assessment of the effect of smaller concentrations of syt on cell growth. Results from such tests, in addition to results from previous studies that employed techniques to increase syt levels in nerve cells, will reveal the extent to which syt influences outgrowth and branching of nerve processes.

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