Metabolic Regulation of Neural Functions
The Ashrafi lab is interested in understanding how behavioral, physiological, and metabolic processes intersect to determine energy balance in organisms. The Ashrafi lab addresses many of these questions using C. elegans as an experimental organism and through a variety of molecular genetic, pharmacological, biochemical, and behavioral approaches. The Ashrafi lab recently discovered that a specific metabolite of the tryptophan degradation pathway, known as kynurenic acid, serves as an indicator of energy status that links metabolism to a neural circuit that underlies feeding behavior. Building on this discovery, findings will be presented that show alterations in kynurenic acid specifically underlie the beneficial effects of caloric restriction on learning and memory independent of the effects of caloric restriction on lifespan extension. Implications of these findings to a number of neurodegenerative disorders will be discussed.
Kaveh Ashrafi, PhD, holds the Jack D. and Deloris Lange Endowed Chair in Systems Physiology and is a professor in the department of Physiology and a member of the UCSF Diabetes Center and the UCSF Cardiovascular Research Institute. His primary research interests include genetic and environmental bases of fat regulation and the intersection of metabolic pathways and neural functions related to feeding behavior and learning. He leads a team that uses a combination of genetics, molecular biology, and pharmacology to approach these questions, primarily in C. elegans. He is a member of UCSF Tetrad, BMS, CCB, and Neuroscience graduate programs and teaches in variety of courses in UCSF Graduate Division, School of Medicine, and School of Dentistry.
Dr. Ashrafi received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Virginia Tech, PhD training in molecular cell biology and biochemistry at Washington University School of Medicine and conducted his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.