Philip A. Beachy
Election Year: 2002
Primary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type: Member
The aim of my research is to understand the molecular mechanisms that organize the growth of multicellular embryos. My work in recent years has focused on the Hedgehog (Hh) family of secreted signaling proteins. These proteins are expressed in restricted embryonic locations and elicit graded responses in surrounding cells, thereby controlling the patterns of cellular proliferation and differentiation in developing organs, such as the brain and spinal cord, the limbs, the axial skeleton and musculature, and in the gastrointestinal tract and its derivatives, such as the lungs. In addition to helping define such biological activities, our studies have concentrated on the mechanisms by which Hh proteins are modified by cholesterol and palmitate, two distinct lipid adducts that influence the activity of the mature Hh signal. Our current work is aimed at understanding how the distribution of this signal is regulated in tissues, how cells perceive and respond to distinct concentrations of this signal, how this and related signaling pathways that pattern multicellular embryos arose in evolution, and how activity of such pathways contributes to growth of a variety of tumors.