How are neural progenitors specified to produce distinct types of neurons and glial cells? This age-old question remains one of the most fundamental problems in developmental neurobiology. We use time-lapse imaging, genetic and pharmacological manipulations and transcriptional profiling, including single cell RNA-seq, to uncover the mechanisms that produce motor neurons, oligodendrocytes and NG2 glia from a common population of neural progenitors in zebrafish.
People who learn new skills form new white matter and social isolation is associated with severe white matter deficits. Additionally, individuals diagnosed with psychiatric disease often have white matter abnormalities. How does brain activity influence myelination and how do different myelin profiles affect cognition? We are investigating the mechanisms that mediate communication between axons and oligodendrocytes that regulate myelin formation. We hypothesize that modulation of axonal-glial communication is the basis for adaptive myelination, or myelin plasticity. We use in vivo imaging, genetic and pharmacological manipulations and biochemical approaches to investigate how axons communicate with oligodendrocytes, the signaling pathways that are activated in oligodendrocytes in response to axonal signals and mechanisms that control RNA trafficking and translation to produce myelin membrane.