Dr. Thomas Becker
Dr. Becker's biography and research focus, plus details of CNR's Becker Lab
- 2015-Present Senior Lecturer and Programme Director, MSc Integrative Neuroscience
- 2011-Present Lecturer and Programme Director, MSc Integrative Neuroscience
- 2005-Present Senior Researcher, Deanery of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh
- 2000-2005 Group Leader, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH)
- 1998-2000 Postdoc, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH)
- 1996-1998 Postdoc, Dept Dev Cell Biol, University of California, Irvine
- 1994-1996 Postdoc, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich
- 1993 PhD Neurobiology, University of Bremen
Thomas Becker is the director of the MSc by Research in Integrative Neurocience.
Zebrafish have an amazing capacity for central nervous system (CNS) regeneration. They regain function after complete lesions of the spinal cord or the optic nerve. Such lesions in mammals are not repaired and functions are permanently lost.
- How can zebrafish replace lost neurons from adult stem cells?
- How are severed axonal connections repaired?
- How are these processes related to developmental neurogenesis and axonal pathfinding?
To address these questions we are focusing on two important cell types: retinal ganglion cells, which convey all visual information form the eye to the brain; and spinal motor neurons, which control muscle contraction during swimming.
Retinal ganglion cell axons navigate to their targets guided by a variety of molecules. We have found that molecules of the extracellular matrix are essential for pathfinding of developing as well as regenerating axons to their termination areas in zebrafish. We are continuing to investigate which molecules are needed for correct guidance and termination of developing and regenerating retinal ganglion cells using a variety of techniques, such as gene knock down, mutant analysis and expression profiling.
Motor neurons are important target cells for axons descending from the brainstem that control swimming movements. We have shown that regeneration of descending axons is necessary for functional recovery after a spinal lesion and are now investigating the signals that lead to the (re-)generation of motor neurons. We have found that in embryonic motor neurons, transcriptional co-factors control expression of specific cell recognition molecules, such as plexins and neuropilins, which in turn are necessary for pathfinding of embryonic motor axons. We are now using small molecule screens and expression profiling on cDNA microarrays to discover new factors that are important for motor neuron differentiation, both during development and adult regeneration.
By analysing development and regeneration of important cell types in the zebrafish we hope to gain insight into fundamental developmental and regenerative mechanisms in the CNS, and to ultimately increase our understanding of human conditions, such as spinal cord injury and motor neuron disease.
- Thomas Becker, Co-PI
- Lindsey Caldwell, PhD Student
Tom Carr,PhD Student
- Leonardo Cavone, Post-doctoral Researcher
- Helena Chaytow, Post-doctoral Researcher
- Marcus Keatinge, Post-doctoral Researcher
- Tess McCann, PhD Student
- Ana Oprisoreanu, Post-doctoral Fellow
- Joly Ghanawi, Research Technician
- Hannah Smith, PhD Student
- Themistoklis Tsarouchas, PhD Student
- Nathan Troost, ERASMUS Student
- Daniel Wehner, Post-doctoral Fellow
Work in the laboratory is currently supported by grants from the BBSRC, the CMVM BioQuarter Commercialisation Programme, the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, MND Scotland and the Wellcome Trust.
- Ingolf Bach, University of Massachusetts Medical School
- Siddharthan Chandran, The Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research
- Tom Gillingwater, University of Edinburgh
- Tilo Kunath, Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh
- Andrew Jarman/Lynn Powell, University of Edinburgh
- David Lyons, Centre for Neuroregeneration, University of Edinburgh
- Keith Sillar, University of St Andrews
- Kevin Talbot, Oxford University
- Anna Williams, Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh
- Val Wilson, Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh
Selected Recent Publications
Wehner D, Tsarouchas TM, Michael A, Haase C, Weidinger G, Reimer MM, Becker T*, Becker CG* (2017) Wnt signaling controls a pro-regenerative extracellular matrix in functional spinal cord regeneration, Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00143-0
- Ohnmacht J, Yang Y, Maurer GW, Barreiro-Iglesias A, Tsarouchas TM, Wehner D, Sieger D, Becker CG, Becker T (2016). Spinal Motor Neurons are Regenerated after Mechanical Lesion and Genetic Ablation in Larval Zebrafish, Development.
- Barreiro-Iglesias A, Mysiak KS, Scott AL, Reimer MM, Yang YJ, Becker CG, Becker T (2015) Serotonin Promotes Development and Regeneration of Spinal Motor Neurons in Zebrafish, Cell Reports 13(5):924-32.
- Becker CG, Becker T. (2015) Neuronal Regeneration from Ependymo-radial Glial Cells: Cook, Little Pot, Cook! Developmental Cell 32(4):516-27.
- Reimer M.M., Norris A., Patani R., Zhong Z., Ohnmacht J., Dias T.B., Kuscha V., Scott A.L., Chen Y., Frazer S.L., Wyatt C., Higashijma S., Patton L., Panula P., Chandran S., Becker T., Becker C.G.(2013) Dopamine from the Brain Promotes Spinal Motor Neuron Generation During Development and Adult Regeneration. Developmental Cell 25(5): 478-491.
- *Free featured article with preview: Kong J.H., Butler S.J., Novitch B.G. (2013) My Brain Told Me to Do It. Developmental Cell 25(5):436–438.
- *Editor's Pick in Science Signaling: Gough NR (2013) Co-ordinating Neuronal Development Science Signaling 6(280): 136.
- Zhong Z, Ohnmacht J, Reimer MM, Bach I, Becker T, Becker CG (2012) Chondrolectin Mediates Growth Cone Interactions of Motor Axons with an Intermediate Target. Journal of Neuroscience 32(13):4426-39.
- Dias TB, Yang YJ, Ogai K, Becker T, Becker CG (2012) Notch
- Signalling Controls Generation of Motor Neurons in the Lesioned Spinal Cord of Adult Zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience 32(9):3245-52.
- Wyatt C, Ebert A, Reimer MM, Rasband K, Hardy M, Chien C-B, Becker T, Becker CG (2010) Analysis of the Astray/Robo2 Zebrafish Mutant Reveals that Degenerating Tracts Do Not Provide Strong Guidance Cues for Regenerating Optic Axons. Journal of Neuroscience 2010 30(41):13838-49.
Key Earlier Publications Publications
- Reimer MM, Kuscha V, Wyatt, C, Sörensen, Frank RE, Knüwer M, Becker T, Becker CG (2009) Sonic Hedgehog is a Polarized Signal for Motor Neuron Regeneration in Adult Zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience 29(48):15073-82.
- Reimer MM, Sörensen I, Kuscha V, Frank RE, Liu C, Becker CG, Becker T (2008) Motor Neuron Regeneration in Adult Zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience 28(34):8510-6. 'Recommended' in the Faculty of 1000.
- Güngör C, Ishigaki N, Ma H, Drung A, Ostendorff HP, Bossenz M, Becker CG, Becker T, Bach I (2007) Proteasomal Selection of Multiprotein Complexes Recruited by LIM Homeodomain Transcription Factors. PNAS 104(38):15000-15005.
- Wolman MA, Regnery AM, Becker T, Becker CG, Halloran MC (2007) Semaphorin3D Regulates Axon-Axon Interactions by Modulating Levels of L1CAM. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(36):9653-9663, with editorial coverage, “must read” in the Faculty of 1000.
- J Feldner, MM Reimer, J Schweitzer, B Wendik, D Meyer, T Becker, CG Becker (2007) PlexinA3 Restricts Spinal Exit Points and Branching of Trunk Motor Nerves in Embryonic Zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience 27(18):4978-4983, with editorial coverage and cover image, “recommended” in the Faculty of 1000.
- Schweitzer J, D Gimnopoulos, A Ebert, J Feldner, BC Lieberoth, T Becker, CG Becker (2007) Contactin1a Expression is Associated with Oligodendrocyte Differentiation and Axonal Regeneration in the Central Nervous System of Zebrafish. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 35(2):194-207.
- CG Becker, BC Lieberoth, F Morellini, J Feldner, T Becker and M Schachner (2004) L1.1 is Involved in Spinal Cord Regeneration in Adult Zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience 24():7837-7842, with editorial coverage.
- CG Becker, J Schweitzer, J Feldner, T Becker and M Schachner (2003) Tenascin-R as a Repellent Guidance Molecule for Developing Optic Axons in Zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience 23(15):6232-6237.
- CG Becker, J Schweitzer, J Feldner, M Schachner, T Becker (2004) Tenascin-R as a Repellent Guidance Molecule for Newly Growing and Regenerating Optic Axons in Adult Zebrafish. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 26(3):376-89.
- CG Becker and T Becker (2002) Repellent Guidance of Regenerating Optic Axons by Chondroitin Sulfate Glycosaminoglycans in Zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience 22(3):842-853.