Anatomy and Cell Biology


Douglas Brusich

Address: 1-661 BSB
Phone: (319) 384-1193

Mentor: Andrew Frank, PhD

Undergraduate Institution: St. Ambrose University (2010)

PhD Institution: 2011

Research Description

I have two projects in the lab. The first project stemmed from an RNAi-based screen to identify factors necessary for homeostatic synaptic plasticity (HSP). HSP is a process in which synapses scale signaling to maintain appropriate levels of output. This is a conserved process across nervous systems. However, the necessary factors and signaling pathways to carry out this process are not well understood. My work, together with the work of a fellow graduate student in the Frank lab, identified roles for Phospholipase C-beta and Cysteine String Protein in HSP. Follow-up work aims to determine the specific roles these factors play in HSP.
My second project relates to migraine. Migraine in humans is known to be caused by amino acid substitutions in the presynaptic calcium channel CaV2.1. Activity of these channels is known to change the balance between excitation and inhibition in the nervous system, which is thought to underlie the disease condition. Notably, not all neurons expressing the migraine-type channels are equally affected. This hints at underlying differences in signaling pathways impacted by migraine-type channels. However, we do not fully understand the pathways that might mediate these differences. The Frank lab generated a fruit fly model in which the fly homolog of CaV2.1 harbors amino acid substitutions analogous to those found in human migraine. I am using this model to get a better understanding of the biology and signaling pathways affected by expression of aberrant calcium channels.
Identifying the mechanism by which excitatory homeostasis is maintained at the neuromuscular junction.