Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Cellular and Developmental Biology

Department or School/College

Division of Biological Sciences

Committee Chair

Dr. Sarah Certel

Committee Co-chair

Dr. Mark Grimes

Commitee Members

Dr. Mark Grimes, Dr. Allen Szalda-Petree


dCCN, CCN, development, extracellular matrix, matrix proteins, neuromuscular junction


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Biology | Cell Anatomy | Cell and Developmental Biology | Cell Biology | Developmental Biology | Developmental Neuroscience | Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Organismal Biological Physiology | Other Cell and Developmental Biology | Other Life Sciences | Other Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Research Methods in Life Sciences | Systems Biology


The brain is organized as a complex network of specialized neurons that communicate via a combination of electrical and chemical signals. Our brains function to generate movement, control organ function, or direct complex behaviors; all of which requires the ability to regulate the flow of communication between circuits and networks. Work in this thesis addresses two areas of neuron communication: first, how does the release of more than one neurotransmitter from a single neuron impact behavior, and second, are matricellular proteins (MCPs) key contributors to synaptic transmission and neuron function? The conserved CCN family of MCPs have a unique mosaic structure consisting of a secretory signal peptide followed by four conserved functional domains. This complex mosaic structure provides CCN proteins with key signaling and regulatory roles that are required for many vital biological functions, however, our understanding of the function of CCN proteins in the central nervous system (CNS) is quite limited. The goal of this study was to characterize dCCN expression, the sole Drosophila melanogaster CCN member, and determine how dCCN contributes to neuron function. We determined that dCCN expression in the CNS begins during embryogenesis and continues into mature adult neurons. In the adult, dCCN expression was found in a number of neuron types including sensory neurons, neurons innervating the crop and gut of the gastrointestinal system, and neurons innervating the ovaries and uterus indicating a multi-faceted role in neuron function in this invertebrate member. Furthermore, I describe co-expression between dCCN and neurons that express the monoamines octopamine (OA), dopamine (DA), and serotonin (5-HT), and in neurons that are sexually dimorphic, including fruitless (fru), and double-sex (dsx). Lastly, we demonstrate for the first time a requirement for dCCN in synaptic transmission at the larval neuromuscular junction (NMJ), and female fertility. Our results demonstrate dCCN is expressed in a diverse set of neurons that respond to a variety of external and internal signals, direct synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction, and are critical for the function of reproductive and behavioral circuits.



© Copyright 2020 Elizabeth L. Catudio Garrett