DISCOVERY UNCOVERS HOW CHEMICAL CONNECTIONS BETWEEN NERVE CELLS MAY LEAD TO CHANGES IN GENE EXPRESSION 

Neuroscience students named as first authors on significant study 

December 1, 2005 

WORCESTER, Mass. - A receptor of a well-studied signaling molecule in Drosophila - crucial to embryonic development, cancer prevention and formation of synaptic connections in the fly brain - has been found to use a novel pathway that crosses directly into the cell nucleus, where it may regulate gene expression.  The findings, published in the November 25, 2005 edition, of Science , were authored by graduate students Dennis Mathew and Bulent Ataman in collaboration with Professor of Neurobiology Vivian L. Budnick , PhD, and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. 

"This study is significant in two ways," commented Dr. Budnik, who was one of the first scientists to characterize, record and create markers for the neuromuscular junction of the fruit fly - findings later related to the synapses of the mammalian central nervous system. "First, it demonstrates that a signaling molecule, essential to embryonic development, can be used in the brain in unique ways. Second, it provides a mechanism by which synaptic connections between nerve cells may lead to changes in gene expression." 
 
With the Budnik laboratory for the last three years, Dennis Mathew is associated with the Molecular and Cellular Biology program at UMass Amherst. He obtained his master's degree in biotechnology from the Maharaja Sayajirao University in India and is expected to complete his doctoral studies this month. He will then pursue training as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University.

Bulent Ataman is associated with the Neuroscience Program in the UMMS Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He obtained his bachelor's degree at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey and is expected to complete his doctoral degree in 2006.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $174 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information visit  www.umassmed.edu .

Contact: Kelly Bishop, 508.856.2000, Kelly .Bishop@umassmed.edu