Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

School or Department



Neuroscience – Cellular and Molecular

Faculty Mentor Department


Faculty Mentor

Beverly Piggott


SERCA, Calcium ions, ion channels, neural development, Drosophila melanogaster, tumor model

Subject Categories

Developmental Neuroscience | Integrative Biology | Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience


Ion channels are essential for neural function, playing a variety of necessary cellular roles including excitability, maintaining ion gradients, and volume control. While the role of ion channels in neurons is well-defined, much less is known about excitability in neural progenitor cells. Recently it has emerged that these neural precursors may be affected by channelopathies, indicating a critical role of ion channels in neural development. Using the model system Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly), I investigated the role of the ion channel SERCA (sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ATPase). SERCA is a vital calcium ion pump located on the wall of the endoplasmic reticulum, and it is integral in maintenance of cellular homeostasis and signal transduction in larval brain development. The use of RNAi knockdown technology to reduce the expression of SERCA resulted in a significant decrease in larval brain volume. Further experiments found that the SERCA RNAi knockdown not only decreased cell numbers in neural stem cell lineages but changed the identity of the lineage, implicating an important role for SERCA in both neural stem cell asymmetric division and cell fate. These results indicated that SERCA channels hold a prominent role in cellular proliferation in normal development. The knockdown of SERCA in a brain tumor model additionally showed significantly decreased brain tumor volume, implicating SERCA in tumor development and the proliferation of “neural stem cell-like” cancer cells. Together, these data pinpoint SERCA as a promising potential treatment target for both neural developmental disorders and cancer.

Honors College Research Project


GLI Capstone Project




© Copyright 2023 Hannah M. Christman