Professor Seth Kelly

General Area of Research:

Nervous System Development

Project Description:

The main focus of my lab is studying the control of gene expression during development of the fruit fly nervous system. While it may seem counter intuitive to study neuroscience or neurological diseases in fruit flies, many of the genes important for nervous system development in humans perform similar functions in the fruit fly, albeit on a much smaller scale. Therefore, studying the function of these evolutionarily conserved genes in a genetically tractable organism such as the fly means that we can rapidly test hypotheses about gene function more easily than we could in vertebrates. My lab has recently begun to investigate the role of a gene called Nab2 in nervous system development and function. This gene is evolutionarily conserved in all metazoans and specifically binds to stretches of polyadenosine RNA, such as the poly(A) tail of mRNA transcripts. Interestingly, phenotypes caused by mutations in the fly Nab2 gene can be "rescued" by introduction of the human gene (called ZC3H14) into the fly DNA, suggesting that fly Nab2 and human ZC3H14 are performing very similar functions in nervous system cells.

Several projects are currently underway in my lab that a sophomore researcher could easily contribute to. One of the main projects involves constructing fly strains that express different engineered versions of the Nab2 or ZC3H14 genes in order to analyze the function of these genes during nervous system development. In combination with constructing these engineered fly strains, this project could also entail a genetic screen aimed at identifying other genes functioning with Nab2 in controlling gene expression during nervous system development. Students working in my lab can expect to learn about Drosophila genetics, RNA biology, neuroscience, molecular biology, microscopy, behavioral assays and many other topics.

Related Majors:

BCMB, Biology, Neuroscience

Skills / Classes Required:

BIOL200 (required), BIOL201 (preferred)