Professor Wieland Huttner, Max Planck-Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany.
Current research on cell biological basis of mammalian neurogenesis: CNS neurons originate from neuroepithelial cells. We study the cell biological mechanisms underlying the switch of neuroepithelial cells from proliferation to neurogenesis in the mouse embryo. Prior to, during, and as a consequence of, neurogenesis, neuroepithelial cells down-regulate a number of epithelial features. Expression of the antiproliferative gene TIS21 can be used (i) as a tool to distinguish between proliferating and neuron-generating neuroepithelial cells and (ii) as a means of imaging neuron-generating divisions of neuroepithelial cells. To study the distribution, during mitosis, of cellular components in the context of the apico-basal axis of neuroepithelial cells, we have focused on prominin, a pentaspan membrane protein identified by our group that is sorted to the apical surface of neuroepithelial cells and specifically retained in plasma membrane protrusions. Prominin is associated with a novel, cholesterol-based lipid raft.
Future projects concern the cell biological as well as genomic basis of neurogenesis in the mammalian central nervous system. Our goal is to elucidate, at the molecular level, the switch of neuroepithelial cells from proliferative to neuron-generating division.