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Faculty Research Labs

The Pierchala Lab

The Pierchala laboratory is interested in understanding the ligand and receptor mechanisms responsible for growth and survival promotion, apoptosis, and neural degeneration. They utilize biochemical and cell biological methods for the analysis of transgenic mice and motor neurons differentiated from human iPSCs. During development of the nervous system, axonal projections and synaptic contacts are supported by target-derived neuroptrophic factors, such as the glial cell line-derived (GDNF) family ligands (GFLs). During this period of target innervation, neurons often make excessive projections into their targets that are later pruned back. Development of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), for example, undergoes a process in which NMJs are initially innervated by several axons, and through a process known as synaptic elimination, weaker connections are eliminated resulting in a 1:1 pairing between the motor neuron and muscle fiber. This competitive “pushing out” of weaker axonal connections occurs by the release of inhibitory factors by the successful axons. The delicate balance between growth and survival-promoting neurotrophic factors, and inhibitory competitive factors, is thought to ultimately sculpt the architecture of mature circuits.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

The etiology of ALS is being investigated through the use of unbiased screens for neurodegeneration mechanisms in transgenic mice and human motor neurons differentiated from ALS patient-derived iPSCs.
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Development of the peripheral taste system

The Pierchala lab is investigating cell fate specification of oral sensory neurons of the geniculate ganglion.

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Mechanisms of Apoptosis

The Pierchala laboratory is investigating how death receptor complexes and neurotrophic factor receptors converge to regulate cell death and survival.

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Research Team

PRincipal Investigator
43622-Pierchala, Brian

Brian Pierchala, PhD

Sherry Sonneborn Professor of ALS Research

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48159-Dutta Banik, Debarghya

Debarghya Dutta Banik, MS, MSC, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow in Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology

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44852-Martin, Louis

Louis J. Martin, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow in Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology

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Wesley Stansberry

Graduate Student

44651-Tang, Tao

Tao Tang, MS, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow in Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology

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Catherine Kaminski, MS

Research Analyst/Lab Manager

Priya Shields

Research Analyst

Recent Publications

  • Publications

    C.R. Donnelly, A. Kumari, L. Li, I. Vesela, R.M. Bradley, C.M. Mistretta and B.A. Pierchala.  2022. Probing the multimodal fungiform papilla: complex peripheral nerve endings of chorda tympani taste and mechanosensitive fibers before and after Hedgehog pathway inhibition. Cell Tissue Research. 387: 225-247. PMCID: PMC8821500. Selected for the cover image of this journal issue.

    J.L. Shadrach, W.M. Stansberry, A.M. Milen, R.E. Ives, E.A. Fogarty, A. Antonellis and B.A. Pierchala. 2021. Translatomic analysis of regenerating and degenerating spinal motor neurons in injury and ALS. iScience. 24 (7): 102700. PMCID PMC8246596

    T. Tang, C.R. Donnelly, A.A. Shah, R.M. Bradley, C.M. Mistretta and B.A. Pierchala. 2020. Cell non-autonomous requirement of p75 in the development of geniculate oral sensory neurons. Sci. Rep. 10 (1): 22117. PMCID: PMC7747618.

    J.L. Shadrach and B.A. Pierchala.  2018.  Semaphorin3A signaling is dispensible for motor axon reinnervation of the adult neuromuscular junction. eNeuro. 5: e0155. PMCID PMC5955010

    C.R. Donnelly, N.A. Gabreski, M. Chowdury, E.B. Suh and B.A. Pierchala. 2018. Non-canonical Ret signaling augments p75-mediated cell death in developing sympathetic neurons. J. Cell Biology. 217: 3237-3253. PMID: 30018091

    C.R. Donnelly, A.A. Shah, C.M. Mistretta, R.M. Bradley and B.A. Pierchala. 2017. Biphasic functions of the GDNF-Ret signaling pathway in chemosensory neuron development and diversification. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (PNAS).  115: E516-E525. PMID 29282324.

    Z. Chen,* C.R. Donnelly,* B. Dominguez, Y. Harada, W. Lin, A.S. Halim, T.G. Bengoechea, B.A. Pierchala# and K-F. Lee#. 2017. P75 is required for the establishment of postnatal sensory neuron diversity by potentiating Ret signaling. Cell Reports. 21: 707-720. PMID: 29045838. *These authors contributed equally.  #Co-corresponding authors.

    A.B. Wehner, H.B. Abdesselem, T.L. Dickendesher, F. Imai, Y. Yoshida, R.J. Giger and B.A. Pierchala. 2016. Semaphorin 3A is a retrograde cell death signal in developing sympathetic neurons. Development. 143: 1560-1570. PMID: 27143756