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Functional Analysis in C.elegans of Lunapark (LNP): A Gene involved in Neurogenesis

English title Functional Analysis in C.elegans of Lunapark (LNP): A Gene involved in Neurogenesis
Applicant Gomez Marie Isabel
Number 105907
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département de Génétique et Evolution Faculté des Sciences Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Embryology, Developmental Biology
Start/End 01.10.2004 - 30.09.2006
Approved amount 173'300.00
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Keywords (6)

C. elegans; development; neurogenesis; ventral nerve cord; evolution; Lunapark gene

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Everyday life is conducted by a set of sensory and motor behaviours, whichare still poorly understood. In vertebrates, the spinal cord process motorand sensory information as it travels between the brain and the rest ofthe body. However we do not yet understand how the spinal cord works atthe cellular and molecular levels, nor has it develops to form the correctconnections and finally how it is organised to control the behaviours,like locomotion. Consequently, we do not well understand the molecularpathogenesis of developmental abnormalities such as spina bifida ordegenerative diseases such as motor neuron disease. In addition, rationalapproaches to induce spinal cord regeneration following trauma will dependon a detailed understanding of spinal cord biological actions.
We areinterested in identifying new molecules involved in nervous systemdevelopment and function and in particular, spinal cord development andfunction. Recently a mouse gene coding for a protein named Lunapark (Lnp)was identified, and shown to be expressed in limbs, eyes, heart,genitalia, and in the nervous system. Its expression in the nervous systemis conserved through evolution. Moreover, its expression in the neuraltube coincides with that of Evx transcription factors that play animportant role in the interneuron identity in the spinal cord. Together,these suggest that Lnp may be involved in nervous system development andfunction.
There are over 100 billion neurons and probably 1015 to 1016synapses in a mammalian brain, complicating the development of mammaliansystems to study motor and sensory behaviours. Consequently, there is aneed for developing a simple model system to understand how behaviour suchas locomotion is controlled. The entire C. elegans nervous system contains302 neurons and about 5000 chemical synapses, 2000 neuromuscularjunctions, and 600 gap junctions. Yet, this relatively simple nervoussystem is remarkably similar to vertebrate nervous systems. Moreover, thesequence of the C. elegans genome revealed that, through more than 550million years of evolution, the creation of the complex and sophisticatedhuman brain occurred without the need for a lot of new genes. Therefore,this small organism can provide a very good model for studying the nervoussystem of all animals.
Our recent results in C. elegans show that lnpis expressed in some neurons of the ventral nerve cord, which are part ofthe neuronal circuitry controlling locomotion. The C. elegans ventralnerve cord is similar in overall architecture to the ventral/spinal cordof vertebrates Therefore, in addition to providing novel insights intonervous system development and function in C. elegans, this work shouldhelp to identify molecules that are conserved in more complex organisms.These molecules may belong to important functional pathways that areimportant for nervous system and in particular, spinal cord developmentand function.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
69263 Functional Analysis in C.elegans of Lunapark (LNP): A Putative Evolutionarily Gene Involved in Neurogenesis (subside MHV). 01.10.2004 Marie Heim-Voegtlin grants