Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Scott A. Barbee, Ph.D.


Gene Transcription, Protein Synthesis


It is well established that long-term changes in synaptic structure and function are mediated by rapid activity-dependent gene transcription and new protein synthesis. A growing body of evidence supports the involvement of the microRNA (miRNA) pathway in these processes. We have used the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ) as a model synapse to characterize activity-regulated miRNAs and their important mRNA targets. Here, we have identified five neuronal miRNAs (miRs-1, -8, -289, -314, and -958) that are significantly downregulated in response to neuronal activity. Furthermore we have discovered that neuronal misexpression of three of these miRNAs (miR-8, -289, and -958) is capable of suppressing new synaptic growth in response to activity suggesting that these miRNAs control the translation of biologically relevant target mRNAs. Putative targets of the activity-regulated miRNAs-8 and -289 are significantly enriched in clusters mapping to functional processes including axon development, pathfinding, and axon growth.

We demonstrate that activity-regulated miR-8 regulates the 3'UTR of wingless, a presynaptic regulatory protein involved in the process of activity-dependent axon terminal growth. Additionally, we show that the 3'UTR of the protein tyrosine phosophatase leukocyte antengen related (lar), a protein required for axon guidance and synaptic growth, is regulated by activity-regulated miRNAs-8, -289, and -958 in vitro. Both wg and lar were identified as relevant putative targets for co-regulation based through our functional cluster analysis.

One putative target of miR-289 is the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CamKII). While CamKII is not predicted as a target for co-regulation by multiple activity-regulated miRNAs we identified it as an especially pertinent target for analysis in our system for two reasons. First, CamKII has an extremely well characterized role in postsynaptic plasticity, but its presynaptic role is less well characterized and bears further analysis. Second, local translation of CamKII mRNA is regulated in part by the miRNA pathway in an activity-dependent manner in dendrites. We find that the CamKII 3'UTR is regulated by miR-289 in-vitro and this regulation is alleviated by mutating the `seed region' of the miR-289 binding site within the CamKII 3'UTR. Furthermore, we demonstrate a requirement for local translation of CamKII in motoneurons in the process of activity-regulated axon terminal growth.


Copyright is held by the author.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Katherine Ruth Nesler

File size

137 p.

File format






Included in

Biology Commons