Dept of Cell & Neurobiology
Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute
Keck School of Medicine of USC
- Fetal programming of adult mental disorders
- Influence of placental metabolism on fetal brain development
- Role of serotonin (5-HT) in fetal programming of adult diseases
Research OverviewOur goal is to understand how maternal-fetal interactions affect fetal brain development. The current focus is on the role of serotonin (5-HT) signaling in fetal programming or in other words, how serotonin signaling affects the mechanisms by which maternal and environmental factors shape the fetal brain and influence the development of adult diseases. These studies should ultimately provide new clues into the developmental origin of several mental health-related disorders in humans, such as autism and schizophrenia.
These and other disorders of adult brain function have developmental components suggesting a crucial ontogenetic role of neurotransmitter systems. In particular the serotonergic modulation of axon guidance mechanisms is important for the refinement of neuronal circuits’ formation in utero, suggesting that serotonergic signaling is important for normal fetal brain wiring.
We are currently investigating how maternal/environmental factors affect the serotonergic modulation of fetal brain development; factors that alter 5-HT availability in the maternal and/or fetal compartments (e.g. maternal/placental metabolism, infections, stress, exposure to therapeutic drugs) can potentially alter fetal brain wiring and function in the embryo. We developed a new technology to study the molecular, neurochemical and metabolic details of the maternal-fetal interaction in the mouse. This technology will enable us to test how changes in placental metabolism at different stages of gestation impact the supply of 5-HT and other molecules to the fetus and ultimately fetal brain wiring in utero. This will provide unique opportunities to determine how maternal and placental derived neurotransmitters, cytokines and hormones impact the development of 5-HT-relevant and other circuits that have been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders. We are also pursuing a translational approach aiming at understanding and potentially reducing the effects of therapeutic drugs, in particular antidepressants, on fetal brain development.
- Office Location:
- ZNI 429
- Office Phone:
- (323) 442-2986
- Lab Location:
- ZNI 421
- Lab Phone:
- (323) 442-2036
- PhD (1999) University of Paris XI and Pasteur Institute (Paris, France)