A Genetic Approach to the Development of Dopaminergic Neurons
Our research interest is to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which vertebrate dopamine and noradrenaline systems are established and exert their function. Our approach is to apply the power of molecular genetics, in combination with pharmacological and behavioral analyses to the vertebrate model system for genetics, the zebrafish danio rerio. We have previously isolated a handful of zebrafish mutants that affect subsets of dopaminergic and noradrenergic neurons. Molecular characterizations of two mutations indicate the importance of transcription regulation in the determination of these neurons. Future work involves further characterization of the existing mutations at molecular, cellular, pharmacological and behavioral levels, and identification of additional mutations that disrupt the normal development and function of dopamine and noradrenaline systems. Our research will not only provide important insights into how these fundamental neurotransmitter systems work, but may also help to define the causes of dopamine/noradrenaline-related disorders such as Parkinson's disease, sleep disorders, depression, schizophrenia, and addictions, and lead to therapeutic interventions for these disorders.