The main focus of Dr. Belsham's laboratory is to understand, at the molecular level, how the hypothalamus achieves its diverse physiological functions. The neuroendocrine hypothalamus consists of a complex array of distinct neuronal phenotypes, each expressing a specific complement of neuropeptides, neurotransmitters and receptors. Her research program studies many aspects of GnRH function, which includes the direct actions of neuromodulators on individual GnRH neurons; the transcriptional mechanisms dictating the neurogenesis of individual hypothalamic neurons; and the development of specific immortalized hypothalamic neuronal cell models in order to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in interneuron communication and signaling. Currently half of my research efforts are directed towards studies related to the function of the GnRH neuron and the other half has extended our research program to include studies of many of the neuropeptide-expressing neurons involved in energy homeostasis. Importantly, there is also a direct relationship between nutritional status and reproduction, therefore my research program is poised to utilize all the information gained to provide insight into the complex nature of integrated neuroendocrine control of basic physiology.
- Neuronal cell biology, focussing on mechanisms of neuron-specific gene expression.
- Regulation of gonadotropin-releasing hormone gene expression and secretion by gonadal steroid hormones in hypothalamic cell culture.
- Characterization of afferent neurons to the GnRH neuron, including NPY, Kisspeptin, and GnIH.
- Development and characterization of clonal, immortalized, hypothalamic neuronal and glial cell lines.
- Signal transduction pathways and transcriptional mechanisms involved in the control of neuropeptides involved in energy homeostasis - gene expression and secretion.