University of Wisconsin–Madison
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences | School of Medicine and Public Health

Jill Wildonger

Assistant Professor


2204 Biochemical Sciences Building

Ph.D., Columbia University (2005), Postdoctoral Research: University of California, San Francisco
Research Interests
How neuronal structure and function is shaped by the microtubule cytoskeleton and polarized transport
Research Fields
Disease Biology, Cell Biology, Development, Neuro & Behavioral Genetics, Drosophila

Research Description:
Neurons are functionally and structurally polarized, with distinct cellular projections that are specialized to receive and send signals (dendrites and axons, respectively). Axons and dendrites are essential for transmitting signals within a neuronal circuit, yet the molecular mechanisms that create these distinct structures have remained elusive. Our lab is addressing how neuronal polarity is created and maintained by focusing on the microtubule cytoskeleton, which has a dual function within cells: microtubules provide morphological structure and also serve as the major “highway” for the transport of proteins and organelles that are integral to neuronal function. We are combining genetic, molecular, live-cell imaging and biochemical approaches to delineate the microtubule-based mechanisms that create a polarized neuron, using the developing fruit fly as a model. Reflecting the importance of the microtubule cytoskeleton in neuronal development, multiple human neurodevelopmental disorders, including classic lissencephaly, are linked to microtubule defects. One of our central goals is to identify the molecular and cellular causes of human disorders, such as classical lissencephaly, and determine how changes in the microtubule cytoskeleton impact neuronal structure and function.

Representative Publications:
Zheng, Y.*, Wildonger, J.*, Ye, B., Zhang, Y., Kita, A., Younger, S.H., Zimmerman, S., Jan, L.Y., and Jan, Y.N. 2008. Dynein is required for polarized dendritic transport and uniform microtubule orientation in axons. Nature Cell Biology. 10: 1172-80. *equal contribution

Wildonger, J., Jan, L.Y., and Jan, Y.N. 2008. The Tsc1-Tsc2 complex influences neuronal polarity by modulating TORC1 activity and SAD levels. Genes & Development. 22: 2447-53.

Zhu, S., Barshow, S., Wildonger, J., Jan, L.Y. and Jan, Y.N. 2011. Ets transcription factor Pointed promotes the generation of intermediate neural progenitors in Drosophila larval brains. P.N.A.S. 108: 20615-20.

Wildonger, J., Sosinsky, A., Honig, B., and Mann, R.S. 2005. Lozenge directly activates argos and klumpfuss to regulate programmed cell death. Genes & Development. 19: 1034-9.

Wildonger, J., and Mann, R.S. 2005. The t(8;21) translocation converts AML1 into a constitutive transcriptional repressor. Development. 132: 2263-72.

Wildonger, J., and Mann, R.S. (2005). Evidence that nervy, the Drosophila homolog of ETO/MTG8, promotes mechanosensory organ development by enhancing Notch signaling. Dev. Bio. 286: 507-20.

Ice, R.J.*, Wildonger, J.*, Mann, R.S. and Hiebert, S.W. 2005. Comment on “Nervy links Protein Kinase A to Plexin-mediated Semaphorin repulsion.” Science. 309: 588. *equal contribution