Holger Knaut

Assistant Professor; Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, Developmental Genetics. Department of Cell Biology

Ph.D., 2001 Universitat Tubingen / Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

Keywords: Cranial muscles, sensory neurons, chemokine signaling, cell migration


Contact Information: 

Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine
540 First Avenue 4th floor, Lab 15
New York, N.Y. 10016
Office Tel: (212) 263-7227
Lab Tel: (212) 263-3506
Fax: (212) 263-7760
E-mail: holger.knaut@med.nyu.edu

Administrative Contact:

Dolly Chan
Tel: (212)263-7595
Email: dolly.chan@med.nyu.edu

Muscle and Neuron Migration

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Embryonic development involves extensive cell and tissue movements. Cells are often born far from their final position and face the challenge of navigating through the embryo to reach their destination and assemble into organs. To accomplish this task, they have to correctly interpret guidance cues and interact with various tissues along their migratory route.

Our goal is to understand how cells solve this task in two different scenarios:

1. Using trigeminal sensory ganglion assembly as a model, we study how disperse cells migrate to join and form a functional unit. Trigeminal sensory neurons face such a challenge. They are born from two different cell populations that need to join and assemble into a correctly positioned ganglion. Understanding this process on a cellular and molecular level will contribute to our knowledge of how migrating cells of different types interact with each other and the tissues they encounter en route to assemble into an organ.

2. Using muscle precursor migration as a second model, we study how very related cells migrate out and navigate to different targets in the embryo. Muscle precursor cells are confronted with such a challenge. They originate from the paraxial mesoderm and need to migrate to different positions in the head and appendages. Having reached their targets, they join with tendon precursors and attach to specific sites on the skeleton. Identifying the molecules and understanding the mechanisms that allow migrating muscle precursors to find and interact with their distinct targets will contribute to our understanding how complex structures are assembled.

Using genetic and embryological approaches combined with imaging we are dissecting these two processes. Comparing the insights we gain will contribute to our understanding of how the embryo achieves two very different tasks: recruiting cells of different origin to form a functional unit and separating highly related cells to populate distinct positions to form a functional network. Ultimately, this knowledge can be applied to conditions in which organ formation goes awry.

Selected Publications:

Knaut, H.*, Werz, C., Geisler, R., The Tübingen 2000 Screen Consortium, Nüsslein-Volhard, C. (2003). A zebrafish homologue of the chemokine receptor Cxcr4 is a germ-cell guidance receptor. Nature 16; 421(6920):279-82. PMID: 12508118

Knaut, H.*, Blader, P., Strähle, U. and Schier, A.F*. (2005) Assembly of Trigeminal Sensory Ganglia by Chemokine Signaling. Neuron. Sep 1; 47(5):653-66. PMID: 16129396

Knaut, H.* and Schier, A.F*. (2008) Clearing the path for germ cells. Cell. Feb 8; 132(3): 337-9. 3. PMID: 18267065

Staton, A., Knaut, H. and Giraldez, A. J. (2011) miRNA regulation provides genetic robustness to the chemokine signaling pathway during primordial germ cell migration. Nature Genetics. 43(3):204-11. PMID: 21258340

Lewellis, S.W. and Knaut, H. (2012) Attractive Guidance: How the chemokine SDF1/CXCL12 guides different cells to different locations. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. 2012 Mar 10. PMID: 22414535

Click here to see all publications in PubMed