Our research studies how cells differentiate into different types of tissue. We focus on the molecular pathways involved in this important process. For example, we study how receptor stimulation triggers actions within the cell and what happens in cell nuclei.
A major step during early development is organization of the embryo’s body plan. Morphogens are substances that control the pattern of tissue development. They act as chemical messengers. Morphogens convey signals that establish and specify cell fates. We study the receptors for morphogen signals. Our research involves cellular slime molds. We demonstrated that a a particular family of morphogen receptors establishes the anterior/posterior axis. This axis provides fundamental organization for tissue development. When stimulated, various types of receptors promote or inhibit differentiation and axis formation. We also have examined signals that direct cell movement and sense cell density. Our group studies these general processes in flies and frogs. These studies may reveal new mechanisms cell fate specification or tumor suppression.
Our research also aims to understand how signaling circuits regulate patterns of gene expression. These patterns are cell-specific. We collaborate with other scientists to understand molecular mechanisms required for fat tissue to develop in mammals.