Noelle L'etoile, PhD

Associate Professor
Cell Tissue Biology

Understanding Neural Plasticity and Behavior​

Our goal is to understand how molecules, cells, circuits and the physiology of an intact organism work together to produce learned behaviors.  At the moment we use the powerful genetics, molecular, and cellular biology of the C. elegans olfactory system to approach this question.  Our initial focus was on the sensory neuron itself.  Within the sensory neuron, we discovered that small endogenously produced RNAs (endosiRNAs) provide some of the plasticity of the olfactory response.  The biogenesis of these small RNAs is as mysterious as their regulation by experience and we are attempting to understand each process. Within the circuit, we are examining synaptic remodeling in development and in the adult animal as it adapts to novel stimuli and metabolic stress. The optical transparency of C. elegans provides a unique window into the real time dynamics of circuits.  To take advantage of this, we are developing visual reporters for simultaneous imaging of several aspects of neuronal physiology: calcium transients, pH fluctuations, cGMP and cAMP fluxes and chromatin dynamics within the entire nervous system of the living, behaving animal.

Current Projects

  1. Visualizing the olfactory circuit as it changes its response to prolonged stimulation.
  2. Discovering the unique neuronal regulation of endogenous RNA silencing.

Lab Members

Raymond Dunn
Neuroscience Graduate Student

Trang Duong
Dentistry Graduate Student

Matthew Grunder

Jerry Liu
Graduate Student

Kate Mellman

Fatema Saifuddin
Graduate Student

Veronica Maria Valdez
Lab Assistant

Sarah Woldemariam

Carlos Zuazo
Graduate Student

Bo Zhang

Lab Website