The larval central nervous system of Ciona is a miniaturized but typically chordate nervous system containing only 177 neurons, and represents only the second complete “connectome” ever mapped. The project aims to dissect a regulatory network for the intrinsic control of neuronal polarization and polarized axon outgrowth in the descending decussating neurons (ddNs), a single left/right pair of neurons proposed to be homologous to vertebrate Mauthner cells. This builds on our recent papers and capitalizes on the latest methods for CRISPR/Cas9-mediated, tissue-specific gene knockouts in Ciona. Part of the proposed project includes outreach initiatives involving undergraduates and high school students in applying cutting-edge techniques like CRISPR/Cas9, RNAseq, and optogenetics to addressing fundamental questions in chordate neurodevelopment. The tractability and low-cost of Ciona make them especially suited for candidates who envision a research program at primarily undergraduate institutions.
NSF funding for three years is available starting May 2020, with the possibility of extension pending further funding support. Our lab is at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), located near downtown Atlanta, GA, USA, a dynamic, multicultural city boasting a vibrant neurobiology and biomedical research community fostered by Georgia Tech together with nearby Emory University and Georgia State University.
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