Off-campus SJSU users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your SJSU library user name and PIN.

Publication Date

Summer 2012

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Miri VanHoven


C. elegans, Synaptogenesis

Subject Areas

Neurosciences; Genetics


Sensation and cognition are some of the fundamental human experiences. Our work aimed to understand the molecules responsible for the formation of proper neural circuitry that underlies brain function. A critical step in process of neural circuit formation is the mechanism by which neurons recognize their correct synaptic partners from the many surrounding cells. This process is called synaptic partner recognition (SPR). We studied SPR in Caenhorabditis elegans, a nematode with a simple nervous system whose synapses share features with vertebrate synapses at the morphological and molecular level. Utilizing the transgenic fluorescent marker Neuroligin-1 GFP Reconstitution Across Synaptic Partners (NLG-1 GRASP), our group has previously discovered a gene that functions with UNC-6/Netrin and UNC-40/DCC in SPR. Animals with a mutation in this gene showed defective synaptogenesis between PHB sensory neurons and AVA interneurons. In this work, we showed PHB circuits were also functionally disrupted in these mutants, as they failed to sense sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), a noxious detergent. Moreover, epistasis results were consistent with a function downstream of UNC-6/Netrin, and expression in AVA neurons was sufficient to mediate SPR. Additionally, this gene is required for the establishment and maintenance of PHB-AVA synapses. Elucidating the molecular mechanism of SPR may help us to understand the logic of neural circuit formation and may also aid in the development of treatments for neurological disorders.