Erik Dent, PHD

Position title: Associate Professor, Neuroscience


Phone: 608-262-4672

Organ System/Disease Focus:
Nervous system development and neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimers)
Aligned Research Focus:
Basic stem cell science regarding nervous system development and degeneration
Erik Dent headshot


More Information:
Research Description:

We are interested in understanding how the central nervous system (CNS) develops and functions at the cellular level. Nervous system structure and function is highly dependent on the cytoskeleton. In the CNS the cytoskeleton is comprised of three polymer systems: actin filaments, microtubules and neurofilaments. Our main focus is understanding how microtubules and actin filaments interact in space and time during important morphological events in neuronal development and adulthood. Our working hypothesis is that many of the same cytoskeletal dynamics that are key for neuritogenesis and axon guidance are recapitulated at later times in development, such as during dendritic spine formation/plasticity. To study these dynamic events we use several forms of high-resolution, time-lapse microscopy as well as genetic and biochemical techniques. Our current projects are focused on understanding: 1) how the membrane bending F-BAR proteins and the associated actin cytoskeleton function in neuronal migration and neurite formation using primary and iPSC-derived neurons, 2) how microtubules polymerize directly into dendritic spines of CNS neurons and what cargo they are responsible for trafficking into and out of spines and 3) how the cytoskeletal associated protein tau is involved in regulating microtubule dynamics in human iPSC-derived neurons from Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Selected References:
  • Saengsawang, W., K.L. Taylor, D.C. Lumbard, K. Mitok, A. Price, L. Pietila, T.M. Gomez and E.W. Dent (2013) CIP4 coordinates with phospholipids and actin-associated proteins to localize to the protruding edge and produce actin ribs and veils. J Cell Science, 126:2411-2423. PMCID:PMC3679485.
  • Merriam, E.B., M. Millette, D.C. Lumbard, W. Saengsawang, T. Fothergill, X. Hu, L. Ferhat and E.W. Dent  (2013) Synaptic regulation of microtubule dynamics in dendritic spines by calcium, F-actin and drebrin. J Neuroscience, 33: 16471-16482. PMCID:PMC3797370.
  • Nichol, R.H., K.M. Hagen, D.C. Lumbard, E.W. Dent  and T.M. Gomez (2016) Guidance of axons by local coupling of retrograde flow to point contact adhesions. J Neuroscience, 36: 2267-82. PMCID: PMC4756158.
  • McVicker, D.P., A.M. Awe, K.E. Richters, R.L. Wilson, D.A. Cowdrey, X. Hu, E.R. Chapman and E.W. Dent  (2016) Transport of a kinesin-cargo pair along microtubules into dendritic spines undergoing synaptic plasticity. Nature Communications, 7:12741. PMCID: In progress.