Research: My lab is interested in the process of morphogenesis, the development of shape and form. What are the molecules that regulate the behavior of cells as they change their shape, position and adhesiveness to generate their three-dimensional form during morphogenesis? The answer to this question will certainly add to our understanding of the role of cell adhesion and cell signaling during tissue inflammation and metastasis. We use the genetic model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to study simple examples of morphogenetic movements. The well defined anatomy of C. elegans will allow us to analyze these processes at a level of precision not easily attainable in other organisms. My lab uses genetic, molecular biology, biochemistry, and state of the art video microscopy techniques to elucidate the mechanisms by which tissues and organs are generated. In previous work we have shown that ephrin signaling is required for proper C. elegans morphogenesis.
Ephrin Signaling in C. elegans:
The Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands, the ephrins, are an exciting class of molecules that play a wide variety of roles in development, including axon guidance, blood vessel formation and cancer. C. elegans mutants that are defective in ephrin signaling have abnormal morphogenetic cell movements during embryogenesis and as a result usually die . The identification of ephrins and their receptor in an animal amenable to genetics makes it feasible to dissect the entire network of ephrin signaling in an organism. To understand the roles of Eph signaling during C. elegans development we will identify the downstream genes of the Eph receptor and how other genes might act redundantly or in parallel with Eph signaling during morphogenesis. These studies complement the approaches taken to understand Eph signaling in more complex animals and will expedite our understanding in the signal transduction pathways controlling morphogenesis. Further, Eph signaling has been linked to events of vertebrate neurogenesis, angiogenesis, and cancer, the latter of which is a prime candidate for anti-tumor therapies. It is expected that work done in model organisms will generate mechanistic information required to improve the efficacy of such treatments.
Some Recent Publications: