Research Interests

How are cells controlled to differentiate as a specific cell type at a particular time and place during development? To investigate this problem, I have taken a genetic approach in a model organism, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. To lay the groundwork for this study, I first described development of a complex organ at the level of individual cells and showed that intercellular signaling plays a major role in controlling organ formation. I have gone on to investigate three controls of cell fate in genetic and molecular detail. First is the mechanism by which cells signal to each other to regulate cell fates during development. In this area, we have discovered three core components (signal, receptor, and downstream effector) of a signal transduction pathway that turns out to be widely used in many animals for this same purpose. Second is the mechanism for controlling sexual differentiation, both at the level of the entire organism (male/female) and at the level of single cells (e.g., sperm/oocyte). Third is the mechanism for establishing asymmetry in the early embryo. In the latter two general areas, we have found that translational controls play a major role, and we are going on to explore the molecular mechanisms by which translation is regulated to establish a pattern.

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Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 26: Genetics