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The Levinson Emerging Scholars Program

Marvin Nayan - Biochemistry and Neurobiology

Marvin NayanSince his first year as an undergraduate, Marvin Nayan has been engaged in neurobiology research at the Parrish Laboratory, where he investigates the genetic and molecular mechanisms responsible in regulating dendrite branching. Due to the importance of dendrite patterning to nervous system function, dendrite abnormalities have been linked to many neurological diseases. Marvinís current research focuses on identifying and characterizing mutations that are defective in the development and maintenance of sensory neurons in fruit fly. Marvin hopes his research will lead to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of many mental disorders. Thus far, Marvinís research has guided him to be recognized as a Mary Gates Research Scholar, EOP Scholar, and EIP Presidential Scholar. With the generous support of the Levinson Emerging Scholars Program, Marvin intends to continue neurobiology research in graduate school and plans to pursue a career in academia.

Mentor: Jay Parrish, Biology

Project Title: Characterizing the Metabolic State of Cancer and Embryonic Stem Cells

Abstract: Dendrites are branched projections of a neuron that chiefly function as information receivers, conducting stimuli from adjacent neurons or the external environment and relaying those synapses throughout the body of an organism. This elaborate, yet efficient, transfer of information from neuron to neuron is the hallmark of the nervous system. Therefore, any abnormality that alters how a neuron receives stimuli, such as the spatial arrangement of its dendritic arbor, can lead to defects in neuronal function. Given the importance of dendrite morphology to neuronal function, it is essential for neurons to maintain optimal coverage of their receptive field as the organism grows in size. However, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are poorly understood. We propose a genetic screen to identify genes that regulate maintenance of dendrite coverage. Our aim is to perform functional gene analysis and identify extrinsic regulators of dendrite maintenance. To this end, we will use a transgenic line of fruit flies bearing membrane-bound fluorescent proteins to visualize dendrites of dendritic arborization neurons in the peripheral nervous system. Following chemical mutagenesis, we will use confocal microscopy to screen for mutations that are defective in dendrite maintenance. Subsequently, I will characterize the site of action of mutations of interest using mosaic analysis and finally will positively identify the gene affected by a given mutation by performing a genetic rescue via P-element-mediated transformation. Results from this project will lead to greater understanding of neuronal development, including potential implications to many neurological diseases.