My laboratory aims to understand the mechanisms that shape brain development and lifelong behavior, with a focus on the interactions between nervous, endocrine and immune systems. We investigate how hormones and innate immune cells in the brain, such as microglia and mast cells, contribute to normal brain development and sex differences in the brain. Additionally, we study how innate immune cells and their signaling shape brain circuits and behavioral phenotypes related to neuropsychiatric disorders that are known to occur more in either males or females (e.g., autism, anxiety and mood disorders). We also examine how perinatal experiences, including immune or allergic challenge, perinatal stress, maternal and social interactions alter brain development and resulting behavior throughout life.
To accomplish these goals, we use a variety of techniques in rodents, including pharmacological and behavioral manipulations, immunohistochemistry, stereology, single cell morphological analysis, cellular and molecular biology (gene expression, protein measurement and enzymatic activity assays), primary cell culture, and behavioral testing.
Lenz, K.M., McCarthy, M.M. 2015. A starring role for microglia in brain sex differences. Neuroscientist, 21: 306-21.
Nugent, B.M., Shetty A.C., Hodes, G.E., Wright, C.L., Lenz, K.M., Mahurkar, A., Russo, S.J., Devine, S., McCarthy, M.M. 2015. Brain feminization requires active repression of masculinization via DNA methylation. Nature Neuroscience, 18: 690-97.
Lenz, K.M., Nugent, B.M., Haliyur, R., McCarthy, M.M. Microglia are essential to masculinization of brain and behavior. Journal of Neuroscience, 33, 2761-2772.
Lenz, K.M., Nugent, B.M., McCarthy, M.M. 2012. Sexual differentiation of the rodent brain: dogma and beyond. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 6:26. doi:10.3389/fnins.2012.00026.
Lenz, K.M., Wright, C.L., Martin, R.C., McCarthy, M.M. 2011. Prostaglandin E2 regulates AMPA receptor phosphorylation and membrane insertion in preoptic area neurons and glia during sexual differentiation. PLoS ONE, 6(4): e18500. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018500
Lenz, K.M., McCarthy, M.M 2010. Organized for sex: Steroid hormones and the developing hypothalamus. European Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 2096-2104.
Lenz, K.M., Sengelaub, D.R. 2010. Maternal care effects on the development of a sexually dimorphic motor system: The role of spinal oxytocin. Hormones and Behavior 58, 575-581.
Lenz, K.M., Sengelaub, D.R. 2009. Maternal care effects on SNB motoneuron development: The mediating role of sensory afferent distribution and activity. Developmental Neurobiology, 69, 603-615.
Lenz, K.M., Graham, M.D., Parada, M., Fleming, A.S., Sengelaub, D.R., Monks, D.A. 2008. Tactile stimulation during artificial rearing influences adult function and morphology in a sexually dimorphic neuromuscular system. Developmental Neurobiology, 68, 542-557.
Lenz, K.M., Sengelaub, D.R. 2006. Maternal licking influences dendritic development of motoneurons in a sexually dimorphic neuromuscular system. Brain Research, 1092, 87-99.