Ph.D., Columbia University, 1995
Learning; memory; genetics; behavior
Joshua Dubnau and colleagues use the fruit fly to investigate two different questions. First, Dubnau and his team are investigating mechanisms of memory. Since biological mechanisms of memory are highly conserved through evolution, many features of human memory are observed in simpler organisms like fruit flies. The lab’s efforts on memory focus on understanding the gene pathways as well as the neural circuits in the fly brain. They have recently shown that short-term memory forms in one set of neurons but that long-term memories form in a different brain area. A second area of research in the Dubnau group is focused on uncovering mechanisms or neurodegeneration that underlie amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Using the fruit fly as an experimental system, together with analyses of genomic datasets from mouse, rat and human, the Dubnau group (in collaboration with Molly Hammell’s group) has developed a novel hypothesis to explain several different neurodegenerative disorders. This year they showed that the awakening of dormant transposons in the genome, of some brain cells, might be responsible for causing cell death. Ongoing work in flies and mice and humans will be used to investigate this hypothesis with the goal of developing avenues for therapeutic intervention.
Li, W., Prazak, L., Chatterjee, N., Grüninger, S., Krug, L., Theodorou, D., and Dubnau, J. 2013. Activation of transposable elements during aging and neuronal decline in Drosophila. Nat. Neurosci. 16: 529–531.
Li,W., Cressy, M., Qin, H., Fulga, T., Van Vactor, D., and Dubnau, J. 2013. microRNA-276a functions in ellipsoid body and mushroom body neurons for naïve and conditioned odor avoidance in Drosophila. J. Neurosci. 33: 5821–5833.
Li, W., Prazak, L., Jin, Y., Hammel, M., and Dubnau, J. 2012. Transposable elements in TDP-43-mediated neurodegenerative disorders. PLoS One 7(9) e44099.
Qin, H., Cressy, M., Li, W., Coravos, J., Izzi, S., and Dubnau, J. 2012. Gamma neurons mediate dopaminergic input during aversive olfactory memory formation in Drosophila. Curr. Biol. 22: 608–614.
Blum, A., Li, W., Cressy, M. and Dubnau, J. 2009. Short- and long-term memory in Drosophila require cAMP signaling in distinct neuron types. Curr. Biol. 19: 1341–1350.