Joshua Sanes, Ph.D.
Professor Molecular & Cellular Biology
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Northwest Building, Room 335
52 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Lab Website: The Sanes Lab
Information processing in the brain occurs at synapses, and defects in synapse formation are likely to underlie many neurological and psychiatric diseases. We are therefore interested in the molecules and structures that regulate synapse formation.
For many of our studies, we have used the skeletal neuromuscular junction, because it is the best studied of all synapses and therefore a good subject for molecular analysis of developmental processes. Our major aim has been to identify components that mediate intercellular interactions: molecules that muscle cells use to trigger presynaptic differentiation of axons, molecules that axons use to organize postsynaptic differentiation of muscle, and receptors that transduce these signals. To learn which components are the functionally critical ones, we combine studies of dissociated cells in vitro with molecular genetic analysis of knockout mice in vivo.
A second project extends this analysis to the vertebrate central nervous system, with an emphasis the issues of specificity. We have chosen the retinotectal projection because of its relative accessibility, and initiated studies of how retinal axons receive and make synapses in specific laminae. Such laminar restrictions are major determinants of specific connectivity in many parts of the brain, including the cerebral cortex. Our hope is to apply insights from the neuromuscular junction to synapses of the brain.
A final set of studies, done in collaboration with Jeff Lichtman, aims to devise novel transgenic methods for visualizing synapse formation and synaptic circuits in live animals over time. By using these methods we are learning how the molecules identified in the first two projects actually exert their cellular effects.
For a complete listing of Joshua Sanes' publications on PubMed, click here.