U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Mammalian Developmental Biology Section

Jurrien Dean, M.D., Chief

About the Section

We study early mammalian developmental biology using mice as an experimental system. In particular, we investigate molecular mechanisms of male and female gametogenesis with a focus on maternal factors that promote folliculogenesis, ensure fertilization and promote the transition from egg to early embryo.

Current Research

Our investigations begin with the preparation of the sperm and egg in the testis and ovary, respectively, and include the molecular biology of gamete recognition that results in taxon-specific fertilization, the post-fertilization block to polyspermy, and the activation of the embryonic genome that ensures successful onset of mammalian development.

Our goals are to characterize the molecular basis of male and female gametogenesis with an emphasis on maternal proteins stored in mouse eggs that play major roles in successful fertilization, the subsequent block to polyspermy, and the transition from terminally differentiated, transcriptionally quiescent gametes to the totipotent cells of the early embryo.

These investigations, conducted primarily in mice, have translational implications in human reproductive medicine by providing patients in their childbearing years with better reproductive choices. More broadly, better molecular understanding of the transition from terminally differentiated gametes to the totipotency of early embryonic cells may suggest strategies for reprograming somatic cells into pluripotent cells with therapeutic potential in a wide variety of human diseases.‚Äč