The development of the nervous and the vascular systems exhibit extensive similarities, both on the anatomical and the molecular level. Blood vessels and nerves are structurally similar and often aligned, following parallel routes. The brain is the most vascularized tissue in our body. It is now believed that blood vessels in the brain exert instructive functions that go beyond supplying nutrients and oxygen, for example supplying ligands that directly influence neuronal behavior by activating corresponding receptors and signaling pathways in neuronal cells. We are interested in elucidating the molecular pathways involved in the crosstalk between vessels and nerves and how this crosstalk signaling is integrated among the different cellular players (neurons, endothelial cells, astrocytes) at the neurovascular interface. We focus on the role of vessels during the development of the nervous system but also in the adult during synaptic plasticity using both mouse and zebrafish models.
Amparo Acker-Palmer is a Max Planck Fellow at the MPI for Brain Research since July 1, 2014.