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Title: Determining the roles of DSCAM and SDK proteins in vertebrate visual system development
Author: Bruce, Freyja Mairi
ISNI:       0000 0004 2721 9790
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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Axons are directed along stereotypic pathways to their targets by cues arrayed in the extracellular environment. Identifying the cellular and molecular nature of these signals is of high interest and the developing optic pathway is a useful model system for achieving this. Although previous studies have identified several molecules essential for optic pathway formation, in vivo only subsets of retinal axons rely on them. I focused on the Dscam (Down’s syndrome cell adhesion molecule) and Sidekick (Sdk) cell adhesion molecules for potentially playing crucial roles in this system. In situ hybridisation in the embryonic mouse visual system showed Dscam and Sdk-1 expression in the RGC layer of the retina, along the optic pathway and in the visual targets. Sdk-2 was detected in the glia of the optic nerve and optic chiasm, marking the pathway that RGC axons follow, but not in RGCs. No DscamL1 was detected in RGCs or the optic pathway at the stages investigated and it was discounted from future analysis. In vitro, DSCAM promoted RGC axon outgrowth, whereas SDK 1 was inhibitory. SDK 2 had no effect on RGC axon outgrowth, suggesting it does not play a direct role in their pathfinding. Repeating this assay using retinal explants from the Dscamdel17 mouse mutant, showed that DSCAM enhanced retinal axon outgrowth, at least in part, through homophilic interactions. Analysis of visual system development in Dscam mutants showed DSCAM involvement in RGC axon fasciculation and in enhancing their growth, particularly within the ipsilateral optic tract. Retinal cell counts revealed that DSCAM played diverse roles in controlling cell number. Pre- and postnatal retinas lacking DSCAM contained more RGCs and mitotic cells. Postnatally, Dscam-/- retinas also show decreased cell death. In many cases, defect severity was dose-dependent, with an intermediate phenotype in the heterozygous mice, implicating DSCAM in the neurological defects of Downs’ Syndrome patients.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Axons ; Cell Adhesion Molecules ; Visual Pathways