At the simplest level, our lab wants to understand how cell-cell interactions pattern and guide the development of the vertebrate nervous system. Specifically, we study protocadherins, which belong to a diverse family of cell adhesion molecules and participate in a variety of developmental processes including neurogenesis, cell migration, axon outgrowth, and dendrite dynamics. They have also been implicated in numerous neurodevelopmental disease states like autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. Our lab utilizes zebrafish as a model system because nervous system development occurs rapidly and externally over a period of a few days and can be easily observed as the embryos are transparent. These characteristics are highly advantageous as they allow us to do in vivo time-lapse imaging on a two-photon microscope and investigate discrete developmental events in detail over time. Currently, I am exploring the development of neural activity patterns in the optic tectum and hindbrain using in vivo calcium imaging of both wild type and protocadherin 19 mutant larvae. Mutations in this particular protocadherin have been linked to a female form of infant-onset epilepsy in human patients. Additionally, I am investigating how neuronal columns in the optic tectum arise from progenitor cells and how the circuitry of these neurons is directed and established. Our lab is also using proteomics to identify important signaling pathways downstream of protocadherins that will shed light on the mechanism by which this family of molecules is guiding neural development to produce correct brain structure and function.
2017 - Explorations in Neuroscience High School Camp Travel Award, Ohio State Neuroscience
2015 - Ohio State University Distinguished Presidential Fellowship
S. Light & J Jontes. (2017). δ-Protocadherins: organizers of neural circuit assembly. [Review]. Special Issue of Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology (Elsevier) 69: 83-90.
S. Emerson, S. Light & A. Ebert. (2017). Neuronal expression patterns of the PlexinA family during zebrafish development. Gene Expression Patterns, 27:56-66.
S Light, M Emond, J Jontes. Role of δ-protocadherins in neural circuit assembly. The Ohio State University Zebrameet, Columbus, OH. December 11th, 2017.
S Light, M Emond, J Jontes. Role of δ-protocadherins in neural circuit assembly. Life Sciences Integrated Graduate Program Research Symposium, Columbus, OH. May 23rd, 2017.
S Light, M Emond, J Jontes. Roles of δ-protocadherins in neural circuit assembly. Society for Neuroscience 47th Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. November 12th, 2017.