Most of our current efforts concern the following five projects on the anemones Haliplanella luciae (pictured on the Home page) and Nematostella vectensis (shown above):
- Signal Transduction of Anemone Hair Bundles. We are interested in determining the key components of the transduction machinery. To that end, we identified a gene related to cadherin 23 that forms a part of tip links in anemone hair bundles. We are attempting to identify the proteins that constitute the transduction channel and have made significant progress in that regard. In addition, we are interested in identifying protein-protein interactions among those proteins that are critical to generating signals in the hair bundle.
- Tuning of Anemone Hair Bundles. We are interested in revealing the cellular processes involved in 'tuning'. For example, as concerns the NANA receptor, we know that tuning involves a significant lengthening of the hair bundle in a fashion that requires polumerization of actin. We are investigating the specific second messenger pathways that follow the activation of the NANA receptor and lead to actin polymerization.
- Sensory Physiology of Anemones. We are investigating the consequences of tuning on the ability of anemones to detect, capture and ingest prey.
- Evolution of Hair Bundle Mechanoreceptors. We aim to investigate the possibility that ancestors of sea anemones developed 'vertebrate-style hair bundle mechanoreceptors.' According to this hypothesis, hair bundle mechanoreceptors appeared early in the evolution of animals.
- Repair of Hair Bundles. Anemones secrete 'repair proteins' in a complex mixture that can restore function to hair bundles in a matter of minutes, even after severe trauma. We have some evidence that the repair proteins are therapeutic to damaged hair bundles in vertebrate animals. The precise composition of the repair proteins is poorly understood and is a fascinating topic of study.
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