Scheme: Newton International Fellowships
Organisation: King's College London
Dates: Feb 2013-Mar 2015
Summary: The evolutionary origin of neuronal networks is crucial for understanding their function and pathology. We are studying the evolution of the development of the cerebellar-like circuit, present in several distinct and superficially unrelated parts of the brain in different species. This puzzling combination of independent evolutionary history and conserved morphology and function is best explained by the presence of a dormant genetic programme. We hypothesize that such “cryptic” programmes might exist for a range of different stereotyped neuronal networks. To test this, we are implementing a systems biology analysis to cerebellar-like circuit development across a number of species. Our research involves two complementary strategies. The first is a high-throughput genetic analysis of the neurons that compose the circuit. To achieve this, we selectively label and isolate the neurons at different stages during brain development. This is followed by gene expression profiling using state-of-the-art next-generation sequencing technologies and bioinformatics. Our second strategy consists of a comparative study of the genetic anatomy of cerebellar-like circuit development across vertebrates. To achieve this, we study how and when several characteristic genes are switched on in similar circuits during brain development of a range of different vertebrate species. Our work will contribute to understanding how neuronal circuits are built during development and how they were shaped along vertebrate evolution.