Our research goal is to identify and define the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in generating and maintaining the functional morphology of vertebrate photoreceptors. We use zebrafish as our primary model organism for this research.
Vertebrate photoreceptors are specialized light sensing neurons that have a unique cellular morphology with four functional compartments:
Outer segment - highly modified cilium, packed with stacks of intramembranous discs containing the photon-capturing opsin proteins
Inner segment - major site of protein and lipid synthesis
Cell body - transcriptional regulation in the nucleus
Synaptic region - site of neurotransmitter release
Decades ago, pioneering work by Young and colleagues (Young, 1967; Young and Droz, 1968;
Young and Bok, 1969; Young, 1971) first demonstrated, using injection of radioactive amino acids,
that rod outer segments are renewed continually.