Alvaro Sagasti (University of California, Los Angeles)
MolBio Seminar Series
Dr. Sagasti is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at UCLA. He received his BA from Williams College and his Ph.D. from UCSF, where he worked with Cori Bargmann studying olfactory sensory neuron differentiation in C. elegans. Dr. Sagasti began his research on zebrafish somatosensory neurons as a post-doctoral fellow in Alex Schier’s lab at the Skirball Institute at NYU. He set up his lab at UCLA in 2005, where his group studies the development, regeneration and degeneration of peripheral sensory axons that detect touch stimuli. Recently his group has focused on investigating the reciprocal molecular interactions between axon endings and the skin cells they innervate.
Reciprocal interactions between skin cells and neurons regulate morphogenesis and maintenance of touch sensory axons
The axons of somatosensory neurons innervate the skin early in development to detect touch. To function properly these axons must navigate to and within the skin epithelium, where they adopt a complex three-dimensional architecture. The skin is often thought of as an inert substrate for developing sensory axons, but our recent work has revealed active roles for skin cells in the development and maintenance of sensory axon endings, reminiscent of functions carried out be glial cells in other parts of the nervous system. Specifically, our findings suggest that 1) skin cells produce heparan sulfate proteoglycans that attract sensory axons to the periphery, 2) embryonic sensory axons induce dramatic morphological changes in skin cells, causing them to tightly ensheath innervating axons, and 3) skin cells phagocytose axon debris during developmental pruning and after injury. Together these studies reveal an intimate structural and functional relationship between the nervous system and skin.
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