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Fly lab - Research

Cell Type Specification During Eye Development

A fundamental problem common to the development of most sensory systems is the generation of functionally distinct neuronal cell types. The visual system constitutes a unique model to study the generation of cellular diversity within an otherwise homogeneous neuronal population. We use the fly retina to dissect signaling events that regulate the late phase of eye development, in particular those that control the selective expression of different rhodopsin genes in distinct photoreceptor (PR) subtypes. In many cases it has been shown that factors important for the development of the fly retina may also play a role in the vertebrate retina. Thus, in addition to the elucidation of basic developmental processes, our studies will aid the development of tools to fight eye diseases in humans.

Sensory Receptor Exclusion in the Olfactory System of Flies

A common phenomenon in sensory systems is the expression of one sensory receptor per sensory neuron. However, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are largely unknown. The maxillary palp of Drosophila melanogaster presents a unique model to study mechanisms of sensory receptor exclusion.
We are currently investigating the role of the transcription factors of the iroC family for their involvement in this process.

Generation of Disease Models of Intellectual Disability (and Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease)

Drosophila melanogaster can be employed as a convenient model to perform functional investigations of human disease genes as the fly genome contains more than 75% of the disease-causing genes in human. We are studying novel mutations in several human genes with special attention to their molecular role in neuronal development and network connections, and consequent behavioral outputs. We aim to illustrate how these genetic factors can deregulate brain function and cause intellectual disability. In this connection, RNAi gene silencing, and appropriate gene editing tools will be applied to introduce desired genetic alterations to Drosophila orthologs of selected genes and then consequent behavioral, structural, and functional changes in the brain will be studied by means of suitable techniques. Demonstrating the mechanism of action underlying such genetic mutations can significantly shape the basis of current therapeutic strategies.

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