Genetics and Genomics of Neural Wiring

Institute of Biomedicine (IBUB)

Institute of Biomedicine (IBUB)

Principal investigator: Marta Morey PhD students: Haritz Plazaola Sasieta Technician: Qi Zhu

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The assembly of a functional neural circuit requires that neurons in the network wire correctly. A key question in this process is how neurites discriminate between one another and form connections with their specific synaptic partners. Virtually nothing is known about the genetic and molecular mechanisms that regulate wiring specificity. Expanding our knowledge in this field can help us understand the origin of neurological disorders caused by abnormal circuit assembly, and provide an insight into general principles helpful to coax stem cell derived neurons to properly integrate and reconstruct damaged neural circuits.

To address wiring specificity we use the fly visual system as a model, taking advantage of its striking similarities to vertebrate neuropils, both in terms of neuronal diversity, layered structure and glial support. We combine state of the art genetic techniques, genomic approaches and imaging to unravel how neurons establish specific connections through the following projects:

  1. Transcriptional profiling of cell type specific neurons.
  2. Molecular mechanisms regulating cell type specific wiring specificity.
  3. Transcriptional strategies that bring about specific connectivity patterns.
  4. The importance of glia in neural circuit assembly


Plazaola-Sasieta H, Zhu Q, Gaitán-Peñas H, Rios M, Estévez R, Morey M. Drosophila ClC-a is required in glia of the stem cell niche for proper neurogenesis and wiring of neural circuits. Glia. 2019 Dec;67(12):2374-2398. doi: 10.1002/glia.23691. Epub 2019 Sep 3. PMID: 31479171

Sarin, S; Zuniga-Sanchez, E.; Kurmangaliyev, Y.; Cousins, H.; Patel, M.; Hernandez, J.; Zhang, K.; Samuel, M.; Morey, M.; Sanes, J.R.*; Zipursky, S.L*. Role for Wnt signaling in retinal neuropil development: analysis via RNAseq and in vivo somatic CRISPR mutagenesis. Neuron. 2018 Apr 4;98(1):109-126

Plazaola-Sasieta, H.; Fernandez-Pineda, A.; Zhu, Q.; Morey, M. Untangling the wiring of the Drosophila visual system: developmental principles and molecular strategies. J Neurogenet. 2017 Dec;31(4):231-249

Tan, L.; Zhang, K.X.; Pecot, M.Y.; , Nagarkar-Jaiswal, S.; Lee, P.T.; Takemura, S.Y.; McEwen, J.M.; Nern, A.; Xu,S.; Tadros, W.; Chen, Z.; Zinn, K.; Bellen, H.J.; Morey, M.; Zipursky, S.L*. Ig Superfamily Ligand and Receptor Pairs Expressed in Synaptic Partners in Drosophila. Cell. 2015 Dec 17;163(7):1756-69

Morey, M.; Yee, S.K.; Herman, T.; Nern, A.; Blanco, E.; Zipursky, S.L. Coordinate control of synaptic layer specificity and rhodopsins in photoreceptor neurons. Nature. 2008 Dec 11;456(7223):795-9