Jill C. Wildonger

Photo of Jill C Wildonger
Associate Professor
B.A., Swarthmore College
Ph.D, Columbia University
Postdoctoral, University of California-San Francisco
Phone: (608) 890-4619
Email: wildonger@wisc.edu

Building neuronal function with motors and microtubules

Cell polarity and shape are integral to cell function. Our goal is to elucidate the mechanisms that govern neuronal polarity and structure, which are at the heart of neuronal function. We leverage an innovative combination of cell biology, genetics, and biochemistry to elucidate how the activity of molecular motors and microtubules create the distinct compartments that enable neuronal function. We capitalize on the strengths of a fruit fly model system to precisely manipulate protein function in vivo and to image neurons live in intact animals. Our studies provide a molecules-to-cells understanding of how neuronal structure and function arise from the activity of motors and microtubules.

Cartoon of our studies provide a molecules-to-cells understanding of how neuronal structure and function arise from the activity of motors and microtubules.

Delivering ion channels to detect pain in sensory neuron dendrites

Building on our studies of selective dendritic transport, we are now investigating how microtubule-based transport in dendrites underlies neuronal function, specifically the detection of painful stimuli. Our goal is to understand how sensory ion channels are localized in the dendrites of pain-sensing neurons in normal and diseased states. We are combining our analyses of ion channel trafficking with behavioral studies to reveal how intracellular transport impacts neuronal activity and animal behavior.

Neuron-specific synaptic properties emerge from a microtubule balancing act

Neurons, like other cells, contain a mix of stable and dynamic microtubules. Stable microtubules provide structural stability while dynamic microtubules enable new growth and remodeling. Disrupting stable or dynamic microtubules perturbs synaptic growth and transmission, yet mechanisms that ensure these two populations are properly balanced within neurons are poorly understood. Our new data suggest the novel idea that modulating the balance of stable and dynamic microtubules generates the neuron-specific morphologies and transmission properties of different synapse types.