Peptide hormones control many aspects of the human body. For example, the peptide hormone erythropoietin is responsible for the formation of red blood cells, the creation of prolactin (a hormone that helps women make breast milk), and the creation of a growth hormone that helps the liver do its job as a detoxifying organ. It also helps the body metabolize food. The Laboratory of Genetics and Physiology (LGP) explores genetic circuitry that allows these hormones to target each cell in these organs and execute the specific genetic programs that are necessary to maintain their function.
This research is conducted using tools of biochemistry, genetics, genome analyses, and computational science. Specifically, we isolate transcription factors (genetic switches) which execute instructions provided by hormones and test their function using mouse genetics. We inactivate these switches in mice and thereby accurately determine how they function in different cell types, such as a mammary cell or liver cell. We also analyze the entire genome to determine how exactly these genetic switches home in on specific genes.