Lab Phone:(773) 702-7442
Locomotion is an ancient behavior displayed by vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Despite anatomical differences in the execution of locomotion between species, locomotion invariably relies on the function of a specialized network of neuronal and muscle cells known as the motor circuit. Motor neurons lie at the heart of this circuit and display remarkable diversity based on anatomy, electrophysiology and molecular composition. Decades of research on motor neuron development and function have set the foundation upon which we intend to build and expand our knowledge on the molecular principles governing motor neuron diversity and motor circuit assembly.
Our laboratory focuses on three key questions:
1. How is motor neuron diversity generated during development and maintained throughout life?
2. What are the molecular mechanisms that ensure synapse formation and specificity within the motor circuit?
3. Are there any evolutionarily conserved principles behind motor circuit assembly?
To address these questions, we harness the specific strengths of two model organisms. We use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) as a gene discovery tool and then aim to translate our findings to the vertebrate nervous system using the mouse Mus musculus as a model.
For information on the modern methodology we use to address our research questions in C.elegans and mice, please visit: www.kratsioslab.org
A detailed understanding of how the motor circuit develops and functions may provide novel entry points into the etiology, diagnosis or treatment of motor neuron disorders, such as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). From the basic science perspective, our research will reveal novel transcription factors, their targets and the cis-regulatory elements (motifs) through which these factors act. Such decoding of cis-regulatory information is a vital step toward understanding genome function.