Functional genomics approach to understand neuronal development

Jacek Jaworski

Neuronal development is an important process, during which structural framework for all our brain function is established. Morphology of neurons differs dramatically between various types of neurons and is one of the important aspects of neruronal cells classification. In fact, as it has been postulated over 100 years ago by Ramon y Cajal and proven today, neuronal morphology mirrors particular and unique functions of different classes of neurons. What is more, some aspects of neuronal morphology, e.g. dendritic spine shape, change through our adult live and such changes most likely reflect brain plasticity and are needed for our cognitive functions. Taking into consideration importance of morphological changes of neurons during development, our knowledge regarding organization of molecular networks responsible for this process is surprisingly still very limited. Although we know several players, the general picture remains obscure. It has been believed that detailed knowledge of transcriptoms and proteoms of developing neurons, in combination with recent advances in gene silencing and HTS microscopy, should rapidly overcome this problem. Indeed, tremendous progress has been achieved in studies regarding certain aspects of invertebrate (e.g. D. melanogaster) neuronal development. To the contrary, our knowledge concerning morphological development of mammalian neurons did not benefit thus far from functional genomics approach. During my talk, I will present basic aspects of neuronal development and describe few examples of current attempts, including our own research on mTOR effectors and molecular motors to use functional genomics for morphological studies of mammalian neurons. I will also discuss major problems of large scale RNAi approach as well as those of designing morphological screens with use of mammalian neurons.