Speakers-Student-invited Seminar Series - Carnegie Mellon University

2008–2009 Speakers

Dr. Michael D. Ehlers

Dr. Michael D. Ehlers

Professor of Neurobiology
Duke University
HHMI Investigator
Website at Duke University

Nominated by: Jing Wen

Reason for Nomination: He studies how neurons homeostatically regulate the strength of their synapses at the molecular level. More specifically, he is interested in how neurons adjust the level of protein receptors at the postsynaptic membrane to maintain their neuronal connections. The reason for nominating him is because I think his work is interesting and related to my project. I would like to know more about it.

Research Summary: The research in the Ehlers Lab is focused at the interface of cell biology and neural circuit plasticity. Our work is directed at understanding protein trafficking and turnover in dendrites and its relationship to synapse formation and function. The complex morphology of the neuron, with its elaborately branched dendrites onto which impinge hundreds to thousands of individual synapses, requires that highly specialized mechanisms exist for localizing, maintaining, and removing proteins at the synapse. Such mechanisms are crucial for the proteins at the synapse. Such mechanisms are crucial for the initial establishment of postsynaptic specializations during synaptogenesis, and for activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength that underlie experience-dependent plasticity.

Using a combination of state-of-the-art live cell imaging, protein biochemistry, and electrophysiology, we are actively pursuing four major lines of ongoing research in the lab. First, we are studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms which regulate the trafficking of ionotropic glutamate receptors to and from the synapse during synapse plasticity. Second, we are studying the dyamics and regulation of secretory organelles and the endocytic machinery in dendrites and dentritic spines. Third, we are working to determine how protein stability is controlled at the postsynaptic membrane and, in particular, investigating the role of the ubiquitin-proteasome system in postsynaptic remodeling. Finally, we are exploring the role of membrane trafficking in generating and maintaining neuronal morphology and architecture.

View a video of his talk.

Dr. Brenda Bass

Dr. Brenda Bass

University of Utah
Howard Hughes Professor
Website at the University of Utah

Nominated by: Jason Talkish

Reason for Nomination: I chose to nominate Dr. Bass because she is a pioneer in the field of RNA editing, a theme that is becoming more and more prevalent in RNA biology. Also our in-house RNA editing biologist, Mark Macbeth, did his post-doctoral training with Dr. Bass.

Research Summary: Research in my laboratory is focused on double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)--its biologic functions and the proteins that bind it to mediate these functions. Our studies are divided between two dsRNA-mediated pathways: RNA editing by adenosine deaminases that act on RNA (ADARs), and RNA interference (RNAi). For both pathways we perform in vitro studies to answer mechanistic questions, and in vivo studies in C. elegans to understand biologic function. dsRNA binding proteins (dsRBPs) bind tightly to dsRNA of any sequence, and a dsRNA substrate for one dsRBP is also a substrate for others. This suggests that different dsRNA-mediated pathways intersect and affect each other, and thus, we also study how RNA editing affects RNAi.

View a video of her talk.