Advisor: Timothy M. Gomez
My research in the Gomez lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms that regulate growth cone cytoskeletal dynamics and axon guidance during development. Specifically, I am interested in the regulation and formation of invadopodia in the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the growth cones. These invadopodia structures are F-actin rich protrusions in the cell membrane which contain a number of other proteins including proteases (such as MMP1) which can cleave the extracellular matrix and allow axons to grow into new tissues. We believe invadopodia formation is important for motor neurons that need to leave the spinal cord in response to the appropriate growth factors being released from the muscle as well as other axonal projections. To study this I am employing a number of techniques including quantitative confocal, total internal reflection (TIRF) and super resolution microscopy of both life and fixed axon growth cones from developing Xenopus and Zebrafish embryos in vivo and in vitro.