NEWS | November 30, 2011

Role of immune proteins in brain cells the topic of MIND Institute lecture


Carla Shatz, director of Bio-X, Stanford's pioneering biosciences program, will discuss "Releasing the Brake on Synaptic Plasticity: Immune Genes Moonlighting in Neurons" during the next UC Davis MIND Institute Distinguished Lecturer Series presentation.

The lecture will take place Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the MIND Institute auditorium, 2825 50th St., Sacramento. It is free and open to the public, and no reservations are required.

Shatz has long explored how early developing brain circuits are transformed into adult connections during critical periods of development. Her work, which focuses on the formation of the mammalian visual system, has relevance not only for treating such disorders as autism, but also for understanding how the nervous and immune systems interact.

Schatz's research has shown that members of a large family of proteins critical to immune function (collectively known as HLA molecules in humans and MHC molecules in mice) also play a role in the central nervous system. In mice, reducing the level of most MHC molecules in a brain region that processes visual stimuli causes developmental abnormalities in the circuitry of the mouse visual system. This implies that at least some MHC molecules are needed for development of the brain circuits involved in vision. A current theory is that the presence or absence of these molecules plays a critical role in specific neurodevelopmental disorders.

Stanford's Bio-X program brings together faculty from across the entire university, including clinicians, biologists, engineers, physicists, and computer scientists, to unlock the secrets of the human body. In addition to serving as the Bio-X director, Schatz, who holds a doctorate in neurobiology from Harvard Medical School, also is the Sapp Family Provostial Professor and professor of biology and neurobiology at Stanford University. From 2000 until 2007, she was the chair of the Department of Neurobiology and the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.

Other Distinguished Lecturer Series speakers will include Evan Eichler of the University of Washington, who will speak on "Developmental Delay and Human Copy Number Variation" on Jan. 11; Ricardo Dolmetsch of Stanford University, who will discuss "Using iPS Cells and Mouse Models to Study Autism" on Feb. 8; and Joel T. Nigg, who will speak on "ADHD Causes and Mechanisms" on March 14. Additional series presentations will take place April 11, May 9 and June 13.

All Distinguished Lecturer Series presentations are free and open to the public, with no reservations required. The MIND Institute Resource Center, specializing in information and resources relating to neurodevelopmental disorders and related conditions, is open one hour before and 30 minutes after each presentation.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, CA, was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, Tourette syndrome, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at