Current research focus
C. elegans: a model for neural tube development. We have shown that assembly of the ventral nerve cord (VNC) in C. elegans, an invertebrate, involves some of the same molecular and cellular mechanisms that drive neural tube formation in vertebrates (Developmental Cell, 2017). These include rosette-based convergent extension (CE) and the polarized distribution of VANG-1/Van Gogh, a core component of the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway at cell-cell junctions. We have also identified novel mechanisms, such as the finding that SAX-3/Robo, better known for roles in cell and axon migration, acts in parallel with VANG-1/PCP to regulate CE during VNC assembly. Our work suggests that morphogenesis of the C. elegans VNC and the vertebrate neural tube share deep evolutionary roots. VNC assembly in C. elegans should therefore provide an anatomically simple and genetically accessible new model in which to study neural tube formation. We are currently undertaking large scale genetic screens followed by whole genome sequencing to identify genes involved in VNC assembly (easily identifiable as aberrant positioning of motor neurons in the VNC). The resulting collection of genes should greatly facilitate the elucidation of cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in nerve cord development in C. elegans and thereby contribute to our understanding of neural tube development in vertebrates. Figures can be seen on page.
Accomplishments and awards
Dr. Colavita has received an Ontario Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research and Innovation (2006-2011) and a Canadian Institute for Health Research New Investigator Award (2005-2010).
Dr. Colavita’s research is funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
- Noblett N., Wu Z., Ding Z.H., Park S., Roenspies R., Flibotte S., Chisholm AD., Jin Y.*, and A. Colavita*. 2019. DIP-2 suppresses ectopic neurite sprouting and axonal regeneration in mature neurons. J. Cell Biol. 218(1):125-133.
- Zhang W., Colavita A. and JK. Ngsee. 2017. Mitigating Motor Neuronal Loss in a C. elegans Model of ALS8. Sci. Reports, 7(1):11582.
- Shah P., Tanner M., Kovacevic I., Rankin A., Marshall T., Noblett N., Tran N., Roenspies T., Hung J., Chen Z., Slatculescu C., Perkins TJ, Bao Z.* and A. Colavita*. 2017.PCP and SAX-3/Robo pathways cooperate to regulate convergent extension-based nerve cord assembly in C. elegans. Developmental Cell; 41(2): 195-203.
- Sanchez-Alvarez L., Visanuvimol J., McEwan A., Su A., Imai JH. and A. Colavita. 2011. VANG-1 and PRKL-1 cooperate to negatively regulate neurite formation in C. elegans. PLoS Genetics 7(9): e1002257.
- Habibi-Babadi N., Su A., Carvalho C. and A. Colavita. 2010. The N-glycanase png-1 acts to limit axon branching during organ formation in C. elegans. J. Neurosci. 30, 1766-1776.