The Carrillo Lab
The Carrillo Lab
Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Chicago

How is neural circuit specificity achieved?



The highly stereotyped synaptic connections found in the nervous system were described over a century ago in the seminal Neuron Theory work by Ramon y Cajal. These “special connectional relationships” between synaptic partners form the basis of all motor movements, the acquisition and retrieval of memories, the processing of visual cues, and even our consciousness. Even though we have connectome data for many circuits, including whole animals (C. elegans), how this connectivity is formed during development remains one of the great challenges in neurobiology. The Carrillo laboratory is focused on understanding how specificity is accomplished during neural circuit formation. In order to gain insights into the wiring specificity, we use the highly tractable genetic system Drosophila melanogaster. Even in a “simple” system like Drosophila, developmental programs must instruct thousands of interneurons in the ventral nerve cord to recognize their appropriate postsynaptic motor neuron targets (Research Topic 1). Similar, but numerically less daunting, specificity challenges are encountered in the Drosophila neuromuscular system where 32 motor neurons in the VNC send their projections to the periphery where they must decide which of the 30 muscle fibers to innervate (Research Topic 2). We seek to identify the genes and mechanisms controlling these hard-wired circuits and to understand how the circuit responds to perturbations in connectivity. Our initial focus is on cell surface proteins, particularly on two subfamilies of the immunoglobulin superfamily: the Dprs and DIPs. Finally, after the proper muscle targets have been innervated, there is an orchestration of pre- and postsynaptic growth that must be regulated in order to maintain synaptic efficacy. We will investigate if/how the same genes which are used for targeting also function in synaptic growth (Research Topic 3). Overall, these studies will shed light on the developmental programs utilized not only in invertebrate systems, but also by higher order organisms that encounter similar challenges in neural circuit formation.



September 2019: Congrats to Luke Shackleford (REU student) for being selected to present at the national REU symposium in DC!

September 2019: Meike wins best poster presentation at UChicago Neuro retreat!

June 2019: REU student, Luke Shackleford, joins the lab for the summer!

June 2019: DNUFO students, Katherine Hou and Nico Cordero, join the lab!

June 2019: Our second grad student, Yupu Wang, joins the lab!

April 2019: Collaboration with the Vanderzalm lab available in Developmental Neurobiology! (see Publications)

February 2019: The lab's first paper available on eLife! (see Publications)

January 2019: Collaboration with the Özkan lab available on eLife! (see Publications)

January 2019: CMB student Sarah Yde rotates in the lab!

September 2018: DSRB student Yupu Wang rotates in the lab!

July 2018: CMB student Noah Peña rotates in the lab!

June 2018: Our first grad student, Meike Lobb-Rabe, joins the lab!

June 2018: Undergrads Katie DeLong and Gabriel Rojas-Bowe join the lab for the summer!

March 2018: Grad Students Meike Lobb-Rabe (CMB) and Viola Nawrocka (BMB) rotate in the lab!

January 2018: Grad Students Craig DeValk (BMB) and Erica Mezias (CON) rotate in the lab!

October 2017: Staff Scientist James Ashley joins the lab!

September 2017: CON student Marie Greaney rotates in the lab!

July 2017: Lab Tech Violet Sorrentino and Undergrad Veera Anand join the lab!

June 2017: Our first undergrad, Purujit Chatterjee, joins the lab!

May 2017: The very first lab member, Chloe Weisberg (Lab Tech), joins the lab!

March 2017: The lab is awarded a BSD Diversity & Inclusion Faculty Grant!

January 16, 2017: The Carrillo Lab is open for business! (not fake news!)


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