My laboratory investigates the function of essential elements required to execute vertebrate morphogenetic programs. Morphogenesis is a collective term for the processes by which cells move and change shape to transform the relatively featureless blastoderm into a recognizable vertebrate embryo. While the mechanisms of embryonic patterning have been investigated in some detail, morphogenesis remains poorly understood. To investigate vertebrate morphogenetic movements we analyze early development of the zebrafish, Danio rerio. The zebrafish embryo provides an excellent model for studying morphogenesis since they are optically transparent, develop rapidly and mutants have been identified that display defective morphogenetic movements. In previous work I identified several mutants that are defective in epiboly movements and one mutant defective in anterior morphogenesis. We are now using these mutants to dissect morphogenetic movements. We are applying genetic, molecular and embryological approaches to determine the precise nature of the mutations and the morphogenetic defects we observe. Our immediate goals are to identify the genes encoded by the mutant loci and to determine in detail the defects that result from these mutations. By coupling the molecular identity of the mutants with their specific defects we will gain deep insight into the mechanisms of vertebrate morphogenesis.
Analysis of development of the zebrafish embryo to understand the genetic basis of cell differentiation and cell behavior. Our work examines the genetic regulation of diverse developmental events including epidermal differentiation, angiogenesis and post transcriptional regulation in the teleost yolk cell. This work is directed at understanding essential processes that are misregulated in human disease as well as the evolutionary plasticity that drive diversity.
B.A. Biochemistry (1990) University of Texas; Ph.D. Genes and Development Program (1997) University of Texas Health Science Center