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Florida Atlantic University & Max Planck Florida Institute - Integrative Biology and Neuroscience

Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Faculty - Dr. Tanja Godenschwege


Dr. Tanja Godenschwege

(561) 297-1390

Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
College of Science
Florida Atlantic University

Research Description

My lab uses the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model to understand brain development and function. In the nervous system the function and signaling mechanisms of many genes are evolutionarily conserved from flies to humans. We use anatomical, electrophysiological, molecular and genetic tools to analyze the roles these genes play in the assembly of a neuronal circuit and how developmental processes such as axon guidance and synapse formation are affected when they are mutated. Currently in the lab we are characterizing several genes such as L1-CAM/Neuroglian, Semaphorin, and Superoxide Dismutase (SOD). These genes are of relevance to a variety of neurological disorders and diseases such as CRASH syndrome (split brain), regeneration & degeneration, cancer and aging.

A second focus of the lab is to discover novel drugs that affect the function of the nervous system. The venom of cone snails is a complex mixture of bioactive small peptides and is used to capture prey. Isolated conopeptides have been shown to elicit a wide range of physiological effects. The combination of extreme diversity and targeted specificity has led to conotoxins emerging as highly valuable biomedical tools. They are used not only to study the physiological function of neuronal and muscular target molecules but also as powerful therapeutic agents for a variety of neurological disorders and conditions. In collaboration with Frank Mari's Lab in the Dept of Chemistry & Biochemistry we have developed a novel approach to screen conopeptides for biological activity in vivo.

Research Interests

  • Cellular basis of neurological diseases
  • Axon guidance and synapse formation
  • Discovery of drugs affecting neuronal function
  • Drosophila neurodevelopment


  • PhD: Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany

Recent Publications

  • Heghinian M.D., Mejia M., Adams D.J., Godenschwege T.A., Marí F. (2015) Inhibition of cholinergic pathways in Drosophila melanogaster by conotoxins. FASEB J 29(3):1011-1018.
  • Lee L.H., Godenschwege T.A. (2015) Structure-function analyses of tyrosine phosphatase PTP69D in giant fiber synapse formation of Drosophila. Mol Cell Neurosci 64:24-31.
  • Kudumala, S., Freund, J., Hortsch, M., and Godenschwege, T.A. (2013) Differential effects of human L1CAM mutations on complementing guidance and synaptic defects in Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS One 8(10):e76974. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076974.
  • Mejia, M., Heghinian, M.D., Busch, A., Mari, F., and Godenschwege, T.A. (2013) New tools for targeted disruption of cholinergic synaptic transmission in Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS One 8(5):e64685.
  • Enneking, E.-M.*, Kudumala, S.R.*, Moreno, E., Stephan, R., Boerner, J., Godenschwege, T.A.#, and Pielage J.# (2013) Transsynaptic coordination of synaptic growth, function, and stability by the L1-type CAM neuroglian. PLoS Biol 11(4):e1001537. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001537.
  • Mejia, M., Heghinian, M.D., Busch, A., Mari, F., and Godenschwege, T.A. (2012) Paired nanoinjection and electrophysiology assay to screen for neuromodulatory compounds using the Drosophila melanogaster giant fiber system, J Vis Exp 62:e3597.
*Equal contribution, #Corresponding authors

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