Professor Qian Cai, is interested in molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, and its impact on neuronal development, function, and degeneration. Autophagy-lysosomal function is now considered as indispensable for the homeostasis of cells. Neurons appear particularly vulnerable to autophagy-lysosomal dysfunction and toxin accumulation. Defects within this pathway have been directly linked to several major neurodegenerative diseases. Her lab has focused on addressing how retrograde transport of late endocytic organelles regulates autophagy-lysosomal function, thereby contributing to the maintenance of axonal homeostasis. Using genetic mouse models and cell biological approaches combined with time-lapse imaging and gene rescue experiments in live neurons, the Cai lab will determine how the mitochondrial quality is properly controlled through neuronal mitophagy, and how the defects within this system contribute to neurodegeneration. These studies will advance our understanding of pathogenesis of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by damaged mitochondria or a dysfunctional autophagy-lysosomal system.
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