The Kitazawa group is focusing on molecular basis of neuroplasticity, especially at the levels of epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms underlying memory engram plasticity using mice as model organism.
Neuroplasticity underlies learning and memory formation, which allows for accumulation of knowledge. Abnormalities can be associated with various disorders including dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is an emerging view that a sparse ensemble of neurons, termed as memory engram cells, store specific memories. Memory engram cells are practically labelled as neurons that are transiently activated and express immediate early genes (IEGs) during a learning experience and have undergone physical changes. To reveal the molecular basis of neuroplasticity in engram cell formation, we exploit multidisciplinary approaches including genomics, mouse genetics, circuit analysis and bioinformatics.
In a recent study, we revealed a novel epigenetic and transcriptional mechanism regulating neuronal activity-dependent IEGs activation during sensory neuron maturation (Kitazawa et al., Nature Genetics, 2021). In the DANDRITE, we will further investigate how neuronal activity-dependent gene regulation underlies memory engram cell plasticity. To this end, we will carry out epigenetic and transcriptional profiling of memory engram cells using state-of-the-art high throughput genomics technologies. Furthermore, we will also focus on developing a novel genomics technology which enables whole genome history tracing, and overcome critical limitations of existing snapshot-type sequencing technologies.
The Kitazawa group currently has projects available for Postdocs and PhD students that are supported by the ERC and Lundbeck Foundation. Please contact Group Leader Taro Kitazawa directly, if interested.