Dr Catherina G. Becker, PhDDr Catherina G. Becker, PhD
Reader in Neurobiology
The Chancellor's Building
49 Little France Crescent
Tel/Fax +44 (0) 131 242 7983
2005- CNR Director of Postgraduate Training
2005- Senior Lecturer, School of Biomedical Sciences,University of Edinburgh
2000-2005 Group Leader, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH)
1998-2000 Postdoc, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH)
1996-1998 Postdoc, Dept Dev Cell Biol, University of California, Irvine
1994-1996 Postdoc, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich
1993 PhD Neurobiology with honours, University of Bremen
Zebrafish have an amazing capacity for central nervous system (CNS) regeneration. They regain function after complete lesions of the spinal cord or the optic nerve. Such lesions in mammals are not repaired and functions are permanently lost.
- How can zebrafish replace lost neurons from adult stem cells?
- How are severed axonal connections repaired?
- How are these processes related to developmental neurogenesis and axonal pathfinding?
To address these questions we are focusing on two important cell types, retinal ganglion cells, which convey all visual information form the eye to the brain, and spinal motor neurons, which control muscle contraction during swimming:
Retinal ganglion cell axons navigate to their targets guided by a variety of molecules. We have found that molecules of the extracellular matrix are essential for pathfinding of developing as well as regenerating axons to their termination areas in zebrafish. We are continuing to investigate which molecules are needed for correct guidance and termination of developing and regenerating retinal ganglion cells using a variety of techniques, such as gene knock down, mutant analysis and expression profiling.
Motor neurons are important target cells for axons descending from the brainstem that control swimming movements. We have shown that regeneration of descending axons is necessary for functional recovery after a spinal lesion and are now investigating the signals that lead to the (re-)generation of motor neurons. We have found that in embryonic motor neurons, transcriptional co-factors control expression of specific cell recognition molecules, such as plexins and neuropilins, which in turn are necessary for pathfinding of embryonic motor axons. We are now using small molecule screens and expression profiling on cDNA microarrays to discover new factors that are important for motor neuron differentiation, both during development and adult regeneration.
By analysing development and regeneration of important cell types in the zebrafish we hope to gain insight into fundamental developmental and regenerative mechanisms in the CNS, and to ultimately increase our understanding of human conditions, such as spinal cord injury and motor neuron disease.
Research in a Nutshell Video
- Thomas Becker: Co-PI
- Angela Scott: Post-Doc
- Tatyana Dias: Graduate Student
- Jolanda Münzel: Graduate Student
- Veronika Kuscha: Graduate Student
- Jochen Ohnmacht: Graduate Student
- Cameron Wyatt: Graduate Student
- Zhong Zhen: Graduate Student
- Maria Rubio: Fish Care
Work in the laboratory is currently supported by grants from the BBSRC, the CMVM BioQuarter Commercialisation Programme, the Packard Centre for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, and the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, MND Scotland, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Tenovus Scotland.
Ingolf Bach, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Siddharthan Chandran, The Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research
Chi-Bin Chien, University of Utah
Linda Greensmith, University College London
Jeffrey Rothstein, Packard Centre, Johns Hopkins University
Anna Williams, QMRI, Edinburgh
Tom Gillingwater, University of Edinburgh
Kevin Talbot, Oxford University
Selected Recent Publications
Wyatt C, Ebert A, Reimer MM, Rasband K, Hardy M, Chien C-B, Becker T, Becker CG (2010) Analysis of the astray/robo2 zebrafish mutant reveals that degenerating tracts do not provide strong guidance cues for regenerating optic axons. J Neurosci. 2010 30(41):13838-49.
Reimer MM, Kuscha V, Wyatt, C, Sörensen, Frank RE, Knüwer M, Becker T*, Becker CG* (2009) Sonic hedgehog is a polarized signal for motor neuron regeneration in adult zebrafish, J Neurosci 29:(48) 15073-82
O'Brien GS, Martin S, Sollner C, Wright GJ, Becker CG, Portera-Cailliau C, Sagasti A (2009) Developmentally regulated local inhibition and loss of plasticity hinder reinnervation of the skin by injured peripheral sensory axons, Current Biology, 19:2086-90
Reimer MM, Sörensen I, Kuscha V, Frank RE, Liu C, Becker CG, Becker T (2008) Motor neuron regeneration in adult zebrafish. J Neurosci 28 (34): 8510-6. 'Recommended' in the Faculty of 1000.
Güngör C, Ishigaki N, Ma H, Drung A, Ostendorff HP, Bossenz M, Becker CG, Becker T, Bach I (2007) Proteasomal selection of multiprotein complexes recruited by LIM homeodomain transcription factors. PNAS 104 (38), 15000-15005.
Wolman MA, Regnery AM, Becker T, Becker CG, Halloran MC (2007) Semaphorin3D Regulates Axon-Axon Interactions by Modulating Levels of L1CAM. J Neurosci, 27(36):9653-9663, with editorial coverage, "must read" in the Faculty of 1000
Feldner J, MM Reimer, J Schweitzer, B Wendik, D Meyer, T Becker, CG Becker (2007) PlexinA3 restricts spinal exit points and branching of trunk motor nerves in embryonic zebrafish. J Neurosci 27(18), 4978-4983, with editorial coverage and cover image, "recommended" in the Faculty of 1000.
Key Earlier Publications
Schweitzer J, D Gimnopoulos, A Ebert, J Feldner, BC Lieberoth, T Becker, CG Becker (2007) Contactin1a (F3/F11/contactin) expression is associated with oligodendrocyte differentiation and axonal regeneration in the central nervous system of zebrafish. Mol Cell Neurosci 35(2), 194-207.
Becker CG, BC Lieberoth, F Morellini, J Feldner, T Becker and M Schachner (2004) L1.1 is involved in spinal cord regeneration in adult zebrafish. J Neurosci 24, 7837-7842, with editorial coverage.
Becker CG, J Schweitzer, J Feldner, T Becker and M Schachner (2003) Tenascin-R as a repellent guidance molecule for developing optic axons in zebrafish. J Neurosci 23, 6232-6237
Becker CG, J Schweitzer, J Feldner, M Schachner, T Becker (2004) Tenascin-R as a repellent guidance molecule for newly growing and regenerating optic axons in adult zebrafish. Mol Cell Neurosci 26,376-89.
Becker CG and T Becker (2002) Repellent guidance of regenerating optic axons by chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycans in zebrafish. J Neurosci 22, 842-853.