University of California, Berkeley, 2008, PhD
St. Xavier’s College, Gujarat University, India, 1998, B.S. (Honors) Biochemistry
Glial regulation of neuron shape and function
The nervous system is made of approximately equal number of neurons and glial cells, which closely interact with each other physically and molecularly, to enable proper neural functions. Understanding how glia and neurons communicate with each other is essential, if we are to decipher how our brains make sense of the world, store memories and execute meaningful behaviors; and how disruption of this conversation leads to disease states.
Glia regulate neuron-ending shape, memory and animal behavior
We found that glia dynamically regulate the ionic micro-environment of a sensory neuron-ending to modulate its shape, and thereby its function and animal behavior, throughout animal life. Our studies also indicated that that a glial cell uses multiple molecular pathways and mechanisms to modulate a single neuron-ending. Our current aim is to molecularly identify these different mechanisms of glia-neuron communication and understand their contextual regulation.
Mapping specificity of glia-neuron contact sites in neural circuits
In most instances, each glial cell associates with many neurons, and each neuron interacts with different glia. We recently found that a single glial cell in C. elegans can molecularly discriminate between its associated neurons to regulate them differently (Singhvi et al, Cell, 2016). Current research is aimed at understanding how this functional specificity of cell-cell contact is established and regulated.
Glial engulf neuron-endings
Engulfing (pruning) neuron fragments is a function of many glia types across species but molecular mechanisms regulating this process are not yet well understood. We recently discovered that C. elegans glia also engulf neuron-endings. We aim to exploit the powerful molecular genetic toolkit of C. elegans to understand how this process is executed and regulated, and how it impacts animal sensation and behaviors.