About Dr. Featherstone's Research
The organization of the human brain is staggeringly complex. It contains approximately 100 billion neurons - about the same number as stars in the Milky Way. These neurons form several hundred thousand kilometers of 'wiring' - enough to go to the moon and back again - and have over 500 trillion connections. The number of possible circuits, or unique ways that information could flow through this vast network, is absurdly high: 10 followed by a million zeros - more than the number of particles in the universe. How can we ever understand (or control, in the case of mental illness) information flow through this vast network?
We can understand and control information flow in the brain the same way we follow and control flow in other networks, like cars in traffic, water in pipes, or information in social networks.
Brain cells communicate mostly via glutamate receptors. The number and placement of receptors therefore determines the route and strength of information flow in the brain.
In my lab, we're are working to discover and understand the molecular mechanisms that control number and placement of glutamate receptors. It's the neurobiological equivalent of control over all the stoplights, water valves, and twitter accounts in the world.
Our work uses fruit flies, mice, and a variety of powerful techniques, including molecular genetics and transgenics (to discover and manipulate proteins at the most basic level), recombinant nucleotide biology and gene expression assays (to clone genes and precisely measure gene expression), immunohistochemistry, confocal, and electron microscopy (to determine where and when protein is localized), voltage-clamp synaptic electrophysiology (to measure the functional properties of receptors and overall synaptic efficacy), and sophisticated behavioral assays (to confirm that the molecular changes we see have behavioral significance). We have named and studied several previously uncharacterized genes, and routinely produce novel community reagents such as antibodies and mutants.
More information, including a complete publication list and descriptions of some current projects, is available via our lab web page.
Kaiyun Chen, Antje Richlitzki, David E Featherstone, Martin Schwartzel, and Janet E Richmond. (2011) Tomosyn-dependent regulation of synaptic transmission is required for a late phase of associative odor memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA Nov 8:108(45):18482-7
Kaiyun Chen and David E. Featherstone. (2011) Pre and postsynaptic roles for Drosophila CASK. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 48(2):171-182
Subhashree Ganesan, Julie Karr, and David E. Featherstone. (2011) Drosophila glutamate receptor mRNA expression and mRNP particles. RNA Biology 1:8(5). [Sept]
David E. Featherstone. (2011) Glial SLC Transporters in Drosophila and Mice. GLIA 59(9):1351-1363.
Julie Karr, Vasia Vagin, Kaiyun Chen, Subhashree Ganesan, Oxana Olenkina, Vladimir Gvozdev, and David E. Featherstone. (2009) Regulation of glutamate receptor availability by microRNAs. Journal of Cell Biology 185(4): 685-697.
Yael Grosjean, Micheline Grillet, Hrvoje Augustin, Jean-Francois Ferveur, and David E. Featherstone. (2008) A glial amino acid transporter controls synapse strength and courtship in Drosophila. Nature Neuroscience 11(1): 54-61.
David E. Featherstone and Scott A. Shippy. (2008) Regulation of synaptic transmission by ambient extracellular glutamate. The Neuroscientist 14(2): 171-181.
Hrvoje Augustin/Yael Grosjean, Kaiyun Chen, Qi Sheng, and David E. Featherstone. (2007) Nonvesicular release of glutamate by glial xCT transporters suppresses glutamate receptor clustering in vivo. Journal of Neuroscience 27: 111-123.