Macrophages and microglia are phagocytic cells ofthe innate immune system that have important roles in the nervous system. Myelinating glial cells wrap axons with the myelin sheath and thereby allow for fast axonal conduction. Abnormal function of macrophages and microglia have been implicated in many neurodegenerative and myelin-related diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and peripheral neuropathies. Interestingly, aberrant activation of macrophages and myelin phagocytosis are prominent in demyelinating diseases, suggesting interactions between macrophages and myelinating glia. However, very little is known about the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the interactions between macrophages, microglia, and myelinated axons. The goal of the proposed research is to begin to dissect these relationships on a cellular and genetic level, using the zebrafish as the model system to address questions about the role of macrophages and microglia during development of the myelinated axons. Macrophages and microglia are present and functional in the vertebrate embryo from an early stage, but the roles of these cells in normal development have not been well characterized. This project will investigate the hypothesis that these immune cells play an essential role in development of myelinated axons. In light ofthe known role of macrophages in removing axonal and myelin debris after injury, the first aim is to test whether this same function occurs in the embryo even in undamaged nerves by analyzing the organization and ultrastructure of myelinated axons in zebrafish mutants lacking macrophages. This experiment will provide information on what role(s) macrophage and microglia may have during normal development of the myelinated axons. To identify genes involved in macrophage function and axonal myelination, a genetic screen will be conducted using the zebrafish model system. Mutants will be screened for defects in macrophage distribution, activation, and number in addition to myelination using known markers. Finally, a few mutated genes will be studied in depth. Phenotypic studies, including marker studies, cell transplantation, uitrastructural analysis, macrophage activation analyses, and time-lapse imaging if the effect involves abnormal cell migration, will define the function of the mutated genes at the cellular level. Genetic mapping and positional cloning will identify the genes and help define their functions at the biochemical level. These experiments will provide new insights into the mechanisms that dictate macrophage and microglia function and their relationship with myelination. This project will cast light on the potential causes of a wide array of neurological disorders derived from aberrant immune function, and may lead to new therapeutic approaches.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F03A-F (20))
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Morris, Jill A
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Stanford University
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Meireles, Ana M; Shiau, Celia E; Guenther, Catherine A et al. (2014) The phosphate exporter xpr1b is required for differentiation of tissue-resident macrophages. Cell Rep 8:1659-67