"Neurons and blood vessels rely on common guidance signals to wire into elaborate neural and vascular networks that are closely juxtaposed and interdependent: vascular supply of oxygen and nutrients is essential to sustain the high metabolic rate of the nervous system, and conversely neural control of vascular tone is crucial for circulatory homeostasis. However, it remains unclear how the nervous and vascular systems establish an intimate physical and functional relationship. This proposal seeks to reveal the developmental mechanisms that link neuronal connectivity and vascularization of the nervous system, focusing on the interactions between vascular endothelial cells and spinal motor neurons that control locomotion, respiration and autonomic responses. Motor neuron diseases and a variety of other neurodegenerative conditions are precipitated by vascular abnormalities. Thus, understanding the molecular basis of neurovascular crosstalk may offer novel therapeutic opportunities.
My group will use mutagenesis-based forward genetics in reporter mice combined with gene profiling of motor neurons and endothelial cells to screen for novel regulators of neurovascular interactions and pathfinding. Candidate genes will be further characterized using in vivo mouse and chick models, in addition to in vitro studies to uncover the mechanisms of action. Through this multi-disciplinary approach, the proposal will address these fundamental questions: (i) Do neurovascular interactions instruct the assembly of neural and vascular networks? (ii) What signaling pathways connect region-specific vascularization of the CNS to the local metabolic and functional demand of neuronal tissues? (iii) What mechanisms account for specificity, spatiotemporal control and integration of guidance signaling? In addition, this research plan will generate comprehensive transcriptional/proteomic datasets and novel mouse mutants for future studies of neurovascular communication and patterning."
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Funding SchemeERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant