Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program



Department of Neurobiology; Budnik Lab

First Thesis Advisor

Vivian Budnik


Synapses, Ribonucleoproteins, RNA, Messenger, Drosophila, Neuromuscular Junction, Presynaptic Terminals


Dissertations, UMMS; Synapses; Ribonucleoproteins; RNA, Messenger; Drosophila; Neuromuscular Junction; Presynaptic Terminals


A key process underlying synapse development and plasticity is stimulus-dependent translation of localized mRNAs. This process entails RNA packaging into translationally silent granules and exporting them over long distances from the nucleus to the synapse. Little is know about (a) where ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes are assembled, and if in the nucleus, how do they exit the nucleus; (b) how RNPs are transported to specific synaptic sites.

At the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ), we uncovered a novel RNA export pathway for large RNP (megaRNP) granules assembled in the nucleus, which exit the nucleus by budding through the nuclear envelope. In this process, megaRNPs are enveloped by the inner nuclear membrane (INM), travel through the perinuclear space as membrane-bound granules, and are deenveloped at the outer nuclear membrane. We identified Torsin (an AAA-ATPase that in humans is linked to dystonia), as mediator of INM scission. In torsin mutants, megaRNPs accumulate within the perinuclear space, and the mRNAs fail to localize to postsynaptic sites leading to abnormal NMJ development. We also found that nuclear envelope budding is additionally used for RNP export during Drosophila oogenesis.

Our studies also suggested that the nuclear envelope-associated protein, Nesprin1, forms striated F-actin-based filaments or ‘‘railroad tracks,’’ that span from muscle nuclei to postsynaptic sites at the NMJ. Nesprin1 railroad tracks wrap aoround the postsynaptic regions of immature synaptic boutons, and serve to direct RNPs to sites of new synaptic bouton formation. These studies elucidate novel cell biological mechanisms for nuclear RNP export and trafficking during synapse development.



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