Irene Cheng, B.S. Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut
While neurons are preciously conserved throughout adult life, neurons are initially overproduced during development of the nervous system and must compete for limited neurotrophic factors in order to survive. This is particularly true of the sympathetic nervous system, where neurotrophic factors along with death signals regulate a tug of war in developing neurons. This causes neurons to follow one of many different paths of cellular development, including either survival or apoptosis, and axon extension or pruning. There are multiple ligand-receptor complexes that come into play when looking at nervous system development. I am particularly interested in death receptor 6 (DR6) and its ligand N-APP, and the role it plays in neuronal destruction during both development and later-life in adults.