Dr. Lucia Poggi
Neuronal diversification in the vertebrate retina is achieved through coordinated regulation of cell lineage progression, asymmetric cell division and neuronal subtype identity acquisition. In my group we aim to understand the complex genetic networks integrating these processes in vivo. To understand this we apply time-lapse imaging in the retina of the optically transparent zebrafish embryo in combination with genetics and cell biology. This integrated approach allows us to concomitantly trace the history of a progenitor cell from its emergence to its extinction, monitor temporal patterns of gene expression and elucidate the underlying molecular regulatory processes. We found that particular inhibitory and excitatory neuronal subtypes share highly reproducible lineages consisting of consecutive asymmetric neurogenic divisions and lineage-restricted transcription factor expression. Our current research projects in the lab aim to (1) understand the cell autonomous mechanisms (eg. transcription factors, chromatin regulators) and interactions with the environment, which underlie such highly reproducible lineage patterns; (2) how these molecular processes intersect to generate asymmetric outcome of cell division. We hope that this understanding will provide insights relevant to questions such as how and why; multipotent stem cells or even resident cells can or cannot be encouraged to follow particular pathways of neuronal determination and differentiation. (3) This research will also lay the groundwork for our understanding as to the role of cell lineage on neuronal subtype composition and subsequent assembly of retinal circuits.