Thomas L. Schwarz
The research interests of the Schwarz lab are centered on the use of genetics to probe the cell biology of the nervous system. We use Drosophila, mouse, and rat neurons to investigate such topics as 1) the manner in which membrane organelles are moved along axons, with a particular interest in mitochondria; 2) the mechanism by which a synapse forms and is modified; 3) the mechanism by which neurotransmitters are secreted at synapses; and 4) membrane trafficking in non-neuronal cells. Although our projects typically begin with a genetic focus, they also include electrophysiological, biochemical, and cell biological methods for characterizing mutants and proteins. These investigations, though focused on basic mechanisms, are relevant to the pathology of developmental disorders of the brain and to neurodegeneration.
Recent findings include the following:
1) A mutant screen for blind flies that has uncovered two genes that prevent the formation of synapses. One of these is a motor protein that is necessary to bring synaptic cargos to the site of synapse formation. The other is a protein of the cell surface that is necessary for endings to acquire the correct shape.
2) Elucidation of the mechanism by which mitochondria are transported and the regulation of that movement by cytoplasmic Ca++ and posttranslational modifications of the motor/adaptor complex
3) Demonstrating that two Parkinson's Disease genes, PINK1 and Parkin, stop mitochondrial movement by the sequential phosphorylation, ubiquitination, and degradation of Miro, a component of the motor/adaptor complex.
4) Finding a novel signaling pathway by which synaptic activity causes membrane to be added at the synapse and consequent growth of the postsynaptic specialization.
Neuroscience, CLS Bldg., Rm. 12-130
3 Blackfan Circle
Boston, MA 02115