At present, we have a relatively limited understanding of how the human nervous system develops. The complexity of our brains, which are composed of billions of neurons that make trillions of cellular connections called synapses, has made this a very important, but difficult problem to understand. The simpler nervous systems of invertebrates, such as flies and nematodes, allow us to study the basic and evolutionarily conserved mechanisms responsible for nervous system development in a less complex and more manageable model system. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has emerged as an exceptionally powerful system for studying how neurons develop and form their intercellular connections (synapses). Our proposal uses biochemical, genetic and proteomic approaches to study the molecular processes that regulate neuronal and synaptic development. Specifically, we will utilize a previously characterized presynaptic protein called rpm-1 to identify additional molecules that interact with rpm-1 to facilitate neuronal and synaptic development. The successful completion of our project will lead to new insights into the molecular mechanisms that control development of the nervous system. Given that the molecules we study are evolutionarily conserved from C. elegans to human beings, the knowledge we gain will also be highly applicable to our understanding the mechanisms that drive development of the human brain. Because C. elegans is a non-parasitic nematode, is small in size, and is easy to manipulate, it is an ideal organism for teaching students about nervous systems function. Our research will be directly integrated with educating the community about neuroscience through outreach efforts directed at elementary, secondary and post-secondary students.