Beth Stevens , Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Neurology
F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center
Center for Life Science, Room 12-257
3 Blackfan Circle
Boston, MA 02115
Visit my lab page here and here.
It is becoming increasingly clear that glial cells play a crucial and dynamic role at the synapse during the critical period when neural circuits are formed and refined. Beth Stevens is interested in understanding the mechanisms by which neuron-glia communication helps control the formation, elimination, and plasticity of synapses in health and disease.
In one line of investigation, the Stevens lab focuses on the role of Neuron-Glia-Immune Signaling in the patterning of neural circuits. We recently identified an unexpected role of glia and components of the innate immune system in synaptic pruning. We found that astrocytes promote neuronal expression of complement C1q, the initiating protein of the classical complement cascade. C1q binds to synapses and is required for synapse elimination in the developing visual system. As one of the primary roles of complement in the immune system is to mark unwanted cells or debris for removal, we hypothesize that C1q may be similarly “tagging” unwanted synapses for elimination in the brain. Importantly, we found that C1q becomes aberrantly upregulated and is relocalized to synapses at early stages of glaucoma and other neurodegenerative diseases suggesting a similar elimination mechanism may be in place.
Our current studies are aimed to define cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying complement dependent and independent synapse elimination during development and disease. Current research questions include: How are CNS synapses selectively targeted for elimination? Is complement-dependent synapse elimination an activity-dependent process? What is the role of astrocytes and microglia in synapse development and elimination? The Stevens lab is using a combination of live imaging, molecular, biochemical, and neuroanatomical approaches to address these and other mechanistic questions.
For a complete listing of publications click here.
Last Update: 11/7/2013