Our lab uses the embryo of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a simple model to understand how cell interactions and movements shape the developing body plan. As in many organisms, cells in the early C. elegans embryo polarize in response to cell–cell contacts. Polarity in early C. elegans cells provides a foundation for subsequent cytoskeletal asymmetries that direct the cell movements of gastrulation, which puts cells of the correct type in the appropriate position within the embryo. Following gastrulation, cells assemble together to form organs, which are sculpted into their final form.
We study each of these processes in our lab:
Understanding how cell contacts induce polarity in early embryonic cells: we have identified a signaling pathway that translates cell contact cues into cell polarity by regulating the spatial activity of Rho GTPases.
Learning how gastrulation movements are triggered in specific cells: we have found that primordial germ cells employ a unique “hitchhiking” mechanism, regulated by E-cadherin, that enables them to be pulled into the embryo during gastrulation.
Uncovering how the various cell types of an organ assemble together: we have examined the assembly of the primordial gonad as a simple model for organogenesis. The primordial gonad contains two germ cells and two somatic gonad cells, which undergo an elaborate assembly process that includes migration, stopping, pseudopod extension, and wrapping. We have uncovered a surprising intercellular cannibalism event that helps to sculpt cells in the gonad.
Investigating how epithelial cells and tubes form during organogenesis: we have identified roles for partitioning defective proteins PAR-3 and PAR-6 in epithelial cell polarization and junction assembly, and have shown that PAR proteins cooperate with the vesicle-tethering exocyst complex to regulate lumen formation in a single-celled tube.
Professor, Department of Cell Biology
PhD from University of Arizona
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). 2018 Jan 24; 115(6):E1127-E1136
Journal of cell biology. 2017 Sep 13; 216(11):3729-3744
Nature cell biology. 2016 Dec; 18(12):1302-1310
Nature cell biology. 2016 Mar; 18(3):337-346
Development. 2015 Oct 15; 142(20):3571-3582
Nature cell biology. 2015 Jun; 17(6):726-735
Development. 2014 Dec; 141(23):4640-4647
Developmental biology (Orlando). 2014 Oct 01; 394(1):110-121