Axon growth potential declines during development, contributing to the lack of effective regeneration in the adult central nervous system. What determines the intrinsic growth potential of neurites, and how such growth is regulated during development, disease and following injury is a fundamental question in neuroscience. Although multiple lines of evidence indicate that intrinsic growth capability is genetically encoded, its nature remains poorly defined. Neuronal remodeling of the Drosophila mushroom body offers a unique opportunity to study the mechanisms of various types of axon degeneration and growth. We have recently demonstrated that regrowth of axons following developmental pruning is not only distinct from initial outgrowth but also shares molecular similarities with regeneration following injury. In this proposal we combine state of the art tools from genomics, functional genetics and microscopy to perform a comprehensive study of the mechanisms underlying axon growth during development and following injury. First, we will combine genetic, biochemical and genomic studies to gain a mechanistic understanding of the developmental regrowth program. Next, we will perform extensive transcriptomic analyses and comparisons aimed at defining the genetic programs involved in initial axon growth, developmental regrowth, and regeneration following injury. Finally, we will harness the genetic power of Drosophila to perform a comprehensive functional analysis of genes and pathways, those previously known and new ones that we will discover, in various neurite growth paradigms. Importantly, these functional assays will be performed in the same organism, allowing us to use identical genetic mutations across our analyses. To this end, our identification of a new genetic program regulating developmental axon regrowth, together with emerging tools in genomics, places us in a unique position to gain a broad understanding of axon growth during development and following injury.
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