Howard Lab finds that dynamic instability of neuronal dendrites drives stochastic branching

August 16, 2022

Researchers in the Howard Lab published findings that revealed how dendritic tip growth drives  the branched structure of neurons.  The study was led by Associate Research Scientist, Sonal Shree and Sabyasachi Sutradhar.

Neurons in the brain communicate through synapses between dendrites and axons. Dendritic integrity is crucial for maintaining communication across the brain and changes to dendrite morphology is associated with several diseases. What drives dendritic branching, however, has been largely unknown. By fluorescently tagging neurons and viewing dendrite growth throughout larval development of Drosophila sensory neurons, the Howard Lab discovered that dendrite tips transition quickly and variably among growing, shrinking, and paused states. The group modeled this dynamic instability into an agent-based computational model, which proposed that the stochastic dynamics of dendrite tips drive the complex dendritic morphologies.

Future studies focusing on tip growth may in turn further our understanding of neuronal growth and dendrite structure. These findings from the Howard lab may also be applied to other types of neuronal cells, as well as branching phenotypes in other tissues. Their study can be found in Science Advances.

By Brigitte Naughton (revised 8/18/22)