Cellular and Molecular Biology
Jing, Bowen (School: West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School)
Mechanisms involved in neuromuscular junction (NMJ) morphogenesis and active zone (AZ)-GluR receptor alignment are an active field of research in Drosophila neuroscience. I investigated four poorly characterized genes for regulatory roles at the NMJ: 1) Ig-CAM family member Basigin, 2) calcium-sensitive kinase CASK, 3) putative N-myc homologue CG2082, and 4) kinase Par-1. I knocked down these genes in neuronal tissue using RNAi and imaged NMJs with immunofluorescence microscopy. AZ-GluR colocalization defects were found in all four lines (p < 0.001), implicating the genes in promoting AZ-GluR cluster alignment. The Basigin knockdown line exhibited significantly more branching than the wild-type (p = 0.023), suggesting that Basigin downregulates NMJ branching. Finally, knockdown of each of the four genes reduced bouton area and AZ count per bouton (p < 0.001), implicating the genes in upregulating bouton size. These are novel findings in the literature for these four genes, representing a meaningful step toward a better understanding of the molecular processes at the NMJ. This understanding has medical significance due to the involvement of synapse biology in neurodegenerative disorders.
Air Force Research Laboratory on behalf of the United States Air Force: First Award of $750 in each Intel ISEF Category