Summary of Zinn group research as of 2020
Our group primarily studies the molecular mechanisms of axon guidance and synaptogenesis, and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been our primary experimental system. We study synaptic specificity and synaptic plasticity in the neuromuscular system and in the brain, both in larvae and in pupae. Our approaches combine genetics, molecular biology, electrophysiology, biochemistry, and cell biology. Our primary focus is on cell surface proteins that mediate interactions among neurons. We discovered an interacting network of 32 cell surface proteins, the Dprs and DIPs, which control synaptic targeting and neuronal survival in the larval and adult nervous system, and are examining their functions in a variety of contexts. We are also developing new methods for assessing the interactions among cell surface proteins in vitro, and have been involved in two large-scale “interactome” screens in Drosophila and in human. Our current focus is on developing high-throughput screening methods that may allow the creation of a complete human extracellular interactome, encompassing interactions among thousands of cell surface and secreted proteins.