We are working on a broad array of projects that span analytical chemistry, entomology to neuroscience and neuroethology to study neural circuits in insects on circadian timing and on responses to environmental stress up to single cell level. The focus lies on roles of one of the most complex signaling molecule, the neuropeptides, and the still mostly elusive neuroactive molecules, the biogenic amines, in the control of behavior. Our model animals are the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster because of the copious genetic toolbox and large background knowledge available for the study of its neuronal circuits, but also larger, more long-lived, interesting pest-insects such as the American cockroach Periplaneta Americana and the Maderea cockroach Rhyparobia maderae, because of its advantages for applications of bioanalytical techniques and behavioural studies.
- Functional and quantitative analysis of neuropeptides/biogenic amines in insect brains that control sleep-wake cycles
- Identification/investigation of satiety signaling neuropeptides that control feeding
- Identification, mapping, characterization, and quantification of the inventory of neuropeptides and biogenic amines of respective neuronal networks on single cell level
- Characterization of posttranslational modifications and of differential processing events controlling neuropeptide functions
- Method optimization, such as sample preparations strategies for mass spectrometry with down-scaled volumes for single cell analysis
Our lab´s research is primarily based on highly sensitivemass spectrometric measurement techniques, such as MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry (MS), imaging MS and quadrupole orbitrap MS. For in situ studies, we combine these approaches with specific cell labelling (backfillings, dye injections, immunocytochemistry), primary cell cultures, aiming to obtain a precise “snapshot” of the signaling in a neuronal network at a particular daytime or ontogenetic timespan. Furthermore, we employ various molecular genetic techniques, especially with Drosophila, employing its available ample genetic tool kit. For our research on non-model insects, we employ Ca2+ imaging, qPCR, RNAi and transcriptomics up to the single cell level.