During morphogenesis, biological systems self-organize their simple shapes into more complicated and beautiful ones. The goal of our studies is to understand deeply this miraculous phenomenon of cellular morphogenesis. There are fundamental questions to be answered. Symmetry breaking (change of a symmetric shape to an asymmetric one) is an essential process of morphogenesis: theoretical models suggest that feedback loops and lateral inhibition may be involved in it, but how do cellular molecules indeed give rise to these processes? Generation of mechanical forces is required to create cellular shape, but how? How cells sense cellular length and size in order to regulate their size and morphology? Transport and diffusion of intracellular molecules would create unhomogeneous distribution: do they play a role in cellular pattern formation? Is stochasticity utilized in cellular morphogenesis? All these questions are fascinating for us.
To untangle these issues, our group is focusing on neuronal morphogenesis and the proteins, Shootin1, Shootin2 and Singar1, which we identified by proteome analyses. We are analyzing the molecular mechanisms for neuronal polarization, axon/dendrite formation and cell migration, using up-to-date methods including systems biology. We expect that these analyses will give us a new window into therapeutic strategies for neuronal diseases, such as nerve injury.