Dr. Ralf Heinrich
Dept. of Cellular Neurobiology
Schwann-Schleiden Research Center
Phone: +49(0)551 / 39177958
Fax: +49(0)551 / 39177952
Vertebrates and invertebrates evolved from common ancestors that already possessed neurons, neurosecretory systems and structured central nervous systems. Though nervous systems of invertebrates are typically less complex than those of vertebrates (especially mammals) they share many molecular and functional characteristics. We study the neural basis of insect behaviors and mechanisms underlying neuroprotection and neuroregeneration in insect nervous systems with an evolutionary perspective.
1) The cytokine erythropoietin (Epo) mediates neuroprotective and neuroregenerative functions in insects similar to its beneficial effects described in mammals including humans. Similar structural and functional characteristics of the Epo-binding receptors, partly shared transduction pathways that prevent apoptosis and the functional implication in neuroprotective and neuroregenerative processes in both mammalian and insect species suggest that Epo-like signaling was already established in their common ancestors. We study insects, both with invitro and invivo approaches, to identify “ancient” Epo-like signals and neuroprotective Epo-receptors and to characterize the beneficial molecular mechanisms mediated by these signalling systems. We expect that this “detour through evolutionary history” will also foster research on Epo-mediated tissue protection in mammals.
2) Social behavior is the product of complex interactions between various types of neurons that integrate external sensory information with internal physiological states. We study the regulation of social behaviors by synaptic molecules (e.g. neuroligins, transmitters) and the neurochemical mechanisms of motivational states (mediated by hormones, neuromdulators and transmitters) with a combination of neuroethological, pharmacological, electrophysiological, histochemical and immunocytochemical methods. Most studies focus on sex-specific mating and aggressive behaviors of acoustically communicating grasshoppers and fruit flies.
designed by A. Wirmer