Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program



Department of Neurobiology; Bénard Lab

First Thesis Advisor

Claire Bénard


Neurogenesis; Neurons; Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans


Dissertations, UMMS; Neurogenesis; Neurons; Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans


Nervous system function is closely tied to its structure, which ensures proper connectivity and neural activity. Neuronal architecture is assembled by a series of morphogenetic events, including the coordinated migrations of neurons and axons during development. Subsequently, the neuronal architecture established earlier must persist in the face of further growth, maturation of the nervous system, and the mechanical stress of body movements. In this work, we have shed light on the molecular mechanisms governing both the initial assembly of the nervous system and the long-term maintenance of neural circuits. In particular, we identified heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) as regulators of neuronal migrations. Our discovery and analysis of viable mutations in the two subunits of the heparan sulfate co-polymerase reveals the importance of the coordinated and dynamic action of HSPGs in neuronal and axon guidance during development. Furthermore, we uncovered that the HSPG LON-2/glypican functions as a modulator of UNC-6/netrin signaling through interactions with the UNC-40/DCC receptor. During larval and adult life, molecules such as the protein SAX-7, homologous to mammalian L1CAM, function to protect the integrity of nervous system architecture. Indeed, loss of sax-7 leads to progressive disorganization of neuronal architecture. Through a forward genetic screen, we identified LON-1 as a novel maintenance molecule that functions post-embryonically with SAX-7 to maintain the architecture of the nervous system. Together, our work highlights the importance of extracellular interactions to modulate signaling events during the initial development of the nervous system, and to subsequently maintain neuronal architecture for the long-term.



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