Dr. Chi Wai Lee
Synapses are specialized cell membrane domains that facilitate neuronal communication in the intricate nervous system. These synaptic specializations develop in response to molecular interactions between pre- and postsynaptic cells. A major goal of current research in developmental neuroscience is to elucidate the mechanisms underlying how synapses are assembled. The nerve-muscle synapse, neuromuscular junction (NMJ), which controls all muscle movements, has been considered as the best model for the study of synaptogenesis due to its large size, simplicity and accessibility. When neurons and muscle cells are cultured together, functional NMJs are formed spontaneously. The structure and physiology of mature vertebrate NMJs are well understood. Currently, our laboratory specifically focuses on the signal transduction and cytoskeletal mechanisms underlying synapse development, disease, and regeneration. Three major areas are being pursued in our lab: 1. Postsynaptic receptor trafficking in the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy; 2. Cytoskeletal dynamics in neuronal growth cones during axonal outgrowth and pathfinding; 3. Axonal trafficking of mitochondria in synaptic formation, function, and elimination. Using the simple and elegant Xenopus primary culture system, a variety of techniques, including live-cell time-lapse fluorescence microscopy, super-resolution microscopy, molecular biology, immunocytochemistry, and Western blotting will be applied to these experimental systems to gain understanding to the cellular and molecular mechanism of synaptic development. Our goal is to not only gain a mechanistic understanding of the molecular and cellular aspects of neuronal structure and function, but also provide insights into the cellular basis for neurological disorders.
Lab MembershipsLee Research Group (Principal Investigator/Director)