Shanthini Sockanathan Ph.D
Professor of Neurosciencessockan1@jhmi.edu
Telephone Number: 410-502-3084
Fax Number: 410-614-8423
Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine
725 North Wolfe St.
Baltimore, MD 21205
Mechanistic control of neuronal and glial differentiation and function
The nervous system consists of a great variety of neurons and glia that together form the components and circuits necessary for nervous system function. Neuronal and glial diversity are generated through a series of highly orchestrated events that control cell numbers, subtype identity, cell morphology and axonal projection patterns. Defining how these events unfold and integrate at the molecular level will provide significant insight into the basic mechanisms involved in establishing the mature nervous system, and importantly provide an understanding of the links between development, disease and therapeutic strategies.
My laboratory uses the developing spinal cord as our major paradigm to define the mechanisms that maintain an undifferentiated progenitor state and the molecular pathways that trigger their differentiation into neurons and glia. The major focus of the lab is the study of a new family of six-transmembrane proteins (6-TM GDEs) that play key roles in regulating neuronal and glial differentiation in the spinal cord. We recently discovered that the 6-TM GDEs release GPI-anchored proteins from the cell surface through cleavage of the GPI-anchor. This discovery identifies 6-TM GDEs as the first vertebrate membrane bound GPI-cleaving enzymes that work at the cell surface to regulate GPI-anchored protein function. Current work in the lab involves defining how the 6-TM GDEs regulate cellular signaling events that control neuronal and glial differentiation and function, with a major focus on how GDE dysfunction relates to the onset and progression of disease. To solve these questions, we utilize an integrated approach that includes in vivo models, imaging, molecular biology, biochemistry, developmental biology, genetics and behavior.