- ADJUNCT ASSISTANT PROFESSOR Psychiatry
M.D., Nagoya University Medical School
NYU Medical Center
Ph.D., Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine
My research interest has been how nervous system forms its structure and establishes stereotyped and precise connections. For this, I have been studying neuronal cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), in particular, the L1 family of neuronal CAMs. The biological relevance of these CAMs in nervous system development is underscored by the fact that in humans, mutations in the L1 gene cause the CRASH syndrome, congenital brain defects including axon misguidance. Moreover, mutations in ChL1, another family member, have shown to be responsible for a certain form of mental retardation and schizophrenia, resulted from morphological changes in the brain. For last 6 years, I have analyzed biological function of one of the L1 family CAMs, Nr-CAM, in development of the visual system and cerebellum by using several in vitro culture systems as well as in vivo analyses involving gene targeting and transgenic mice. Our study suggests that Nr-CAM is important for cerebellar granule cell axon growt h. Moreover, Nr-CAM is involved in formation of partial decussation at the optic chiasm, structural basis of binocular vision in mammals. Nr-CAM is also important for formation of the node of Ranvier in myelinated nerves. These results support that Nr-CAM plays crucial roles in several aspects of nervous system development.
Currently, using in vitro cultures as well as in vivo analyses, we are further analyzing function of Nr-CAM in development of nervous system, especially focusing on its function in retinal axon guidance, its mode of action and relationship with other guidance mechanisms involved in optic chiasm formation at the molecular level. This study should provide us with insight into how precise wiring in the brain, structural basis of neuronal function, occurs during development. In nerve regeneration, restoration of appropriate wiring is crucial and understanding of this process at the molecular level is important when we intend to achieve effective functional recovery from brain/spinal cord injury.
Alterations in molecules involved in nervous system development affect brain structure and function, resulting in neurological and psychiatric disorders. The latter includes autism and schizophrenia, both of which have been shown to be developmental disorders. We found that variations in the Nr-CAM gene in humans are associated with autism with severe obsessive compulsive behavior as well as substance abuse vulnerability. Our hypothesis is that Nr-CAM is involved in formation of particular nerve circuitry in the brain whose alterations are responsible for these behavioral aspects, and by using mouse models, we are trying to clarify if this is true. In addition to these CAMs, we are characterizing function of several genes in nervous system development that have been shown to be associated with autism and schizophrenia, using in vitro cultures as well as in vivo analyses with model mice. By understanding function of the molecules involved in nervous system development and pos sible outcomes caused by alterations of those molecules, we hope to gain insight into pathogenesis of these disorders in order to ultimately devise effective therapeutic approaches.
Sakurai T, Reichert J, Hoffman EJ, Cai G, Jones HB, Faham M, Buxbaum JD. A large-scale screen for coding variants in SERT/SLC6A4 in autism spectrum disorders. Autism Research 2008; 1: 251-257.
Sakurai T, Gil OD, Whittard JD, Gazdoiu M, Joseph T, Wu J, Waksman A, Benson DL, Salton SR, Felsenfeld DP. Interactions between the L1 cell adhesion molecule and ezrin support traction-force generation and can be regulated by tyrosine phosphorylation. J Neuro Res 2008; 86: 2602-2614.
Buxbaum JD, Georgieva L, Young JJ, Plescia C, Kajiwara Y, Jiang Y, Moskvina V, Norton N, Peirce T, Williams HJ, Craddock NJ, Carroll L, Corfas G, Davis KL, Owen M, Harroch S, Sakurai T, O'Donova MC. Molecular dissection of NRG1-ERBB4 signaling implicates PTPRZ1 as a potential schizophrenia susceptibility gene. Molecular Psychiatry 2008; 13: 162-172.
Yasuda S, Tanaka H, Sugiura H, Okamura K, Sakaguchi T, Tran U, Takemiya T, Mizoguchi A, Yagita Y, Sakurai T, De Robertis EM, Yamagata K. Activity-induced protocahderin arcadlin regulates dendritic spine number by triggering N-cadherin endocytosis via TAOK2b and p38 MAP kinases. Neuron 2007; 56: 456-471.
Sakurai T, Ramoz N, Reichert J, Corwin T, Kryzak L, Smith C, Silverman J, Hollander E, Buxbaum JD. Association analysis of the NrCAM gene in autism and in subsets of families with obsessive-compulsive or self-stimulatory behaviors. Psychiatric Genetics 2006; 16: 251-257.
Williams SE, Grumet M, Colman DR, Henkemeyer M, Mason CA, Sakurai T. A Role for Nr-CAM in the Patterning of Binocular Visual Pathways. Neuron 2006 May 16; 50(4): 535-547.
Ishiguro H, Liu QR, Gong JP, Hall FS, Ujike H, Morales M, Sakurai T, Grumet M, Uhl GR. NrCAM in addiction vulnerability: positional cloning, drug-regulation, haplotype-specific expression, and altered drug reward in knockout mice. Neuropsychopharmacology 2006 Mar; 31(3): 572-584.
Williams SE, Mann F, Erskine L, Sakurai T, Wei S, Rossi DJ, Gale NW, Holt CE, Mason CA, Henkemeyer M. Ephrin-B2 and EphB1 mediate retinal axon divergence at the optic chiasm. Neuron 2003 Sept 11; 39(6): 919-935.
Gil OD, Sakurai T, Bradley AE, Fink MY, Cassella MR, Kuo JA, Felsenfeld DP. Ankyrin binding mediates L1CAM interactions with static components of the cytoskeleton and inhibits retrograde movement of L1CAM on the cell surface. J Cell Biol 2003 Aug 18; 162(4): 719-730.
Lustig M, Erskine L, Mason CA, Grumet M, Sakurai T. Nr-CAM expression in the developing mouse nervous system: ventral midline structures, specific fiber tracts, and neuropilar regions. J Comp Neurol 2001 May 21; 434(1): 13-28.
Physicians and scientists on the faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai often interact with pharmaceutical, device and biotechnology companies to improve patient care, develop new therapies and achieve scientific breakthroughs. In order to promote an ethical and transparent environment for conducting research, providing clinical care and teaching, Mount Sinai requires that salaried faculty inform the School of their relationships with such companies.
Dr. Sakurai did not report having any of the following types of financial relationships with industry during 2012 and/or 2013: consulting, scientific advisory board, industry-sponsored lectures, service on Board of Directors, participation on industry-sponsored committees, equity ownership valued at greater than 5% of a publicly traded company or any value in a privately held company. Please note that this information may differ from information posted on corporate sites due to timing or classification differences.
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