Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Neuroscience Institute

First Advisor

Daniel Cox

Second Advisor

Nancy Forger

Third Advisor

Walter Walthall

Fourth Advisor

Giorgio Ascoli


Cell-type specific dendritic morphologies emerge via complex growth mechanisms modulated by intrinsic and extrinsic signaling coupled with activity-dependent regulation. Combined, these processes converge on cytoskeletal effectors to direct dendritic arbor development, stabilize mature architecture, and facilitate structural plasticity. Transcription factors (TFs) function as essential cell intrinsic regulators of dendritogenesis involving both combinatorial and cell-type specific effects, however the molecular mechanisms via which these TFs govern arbor development and dynamics remain poorly understood. Studies in Drosophila dendritic arborization (da) sensory neurons have revealed combinatorial roles of the TFs Cut and Knot in modulating dendritic morphology, however putative convergent nodal points of Cut/Knot cytoskeletal regulation remain elusive. Here we use a combined neurogenomic, bioinformatic, and genetic approach to identify and molecularly characterize downstream effectors of these TFs. From these analyses, we identified Formin3 (Form3) as a convergent transcriptional target of both Cut and Knot. We demonstrate that Form3 functions cell-autonomously in class IV (CIV) da neurons to stabilize distal higher order branching along the proximal-distal axis of dendritic arbors. Furthermore, live confocal imaging of multi-fluor cytoskeletal reporters and IHC analyses reveal that form3 mutants exhibit a specific collapse of the dendritic microtubule (MT) cytoskeleton, the functional consequences of which include defective dendritic trafficking of mitochondria and satellite Golgi. Biochemical analyses reveal Form3 directly interacts with MTs via the FH1/FH2 domains. Form3 is predicted to interact with two alpha-tubulin N-acetyltransferases (ATAT1) suggesting it may promote MT stabilization via acetylation. Analyses of acetylated dendritic MTs supports this hypothesis as defects in form3 lead to reductions, whereas overexpression promotes increases in MT acetylation. Neurologically, mutations in Inverted Formin 2 (INF2; the human ortholog of form3) have been causally linked to dominant intermediate Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease E. CMT sensory neuropathies lead to distal sensory loss resulting in a reduced ability to sense heat, cold, and pain. Intriguingly, disruption of form3 function in CIV nociceptive neurons results in a severe impairment in nocifensive behavior in response to noxious heat, which can be rescued by expression of INF2 revealing shared primordial functions in regulating nociception and providing novel mechanistic insights into the potential etiological bases of CMT sensory neuropathies.