Research Interests

The goal of my laboratory is to contribute to an understanding of the genetic regulation development of higher organisms. The homeotic (Hox) genes of Drosophila melanogaster have been our principal focus. Homeotic lesions cause one portion of the animal to be transformed into an identity normally found elsewhere. The role of the Hox genes is best viewed as a set of developmental switches for decisions of segmental fate. The encoded homeodomain has shown that this switch activity is carried out through the transcriptional regulation of target genes. By using the knowledge we have gained from Drosophila, we are now able to examine the evolution of segmental diversity within the arthropods. Since Hox genes play a pivotal role in segmental identity, it is thought that they are responsible, in part, for arthropod diversity. We therefore have extended our analysis of Hox genes and cloned Hox genes from several insects and representative species from the Crustacea, Chelicerata and Myriapoda. Hox gene expression patterns in these arthropods offer tantalizing clues to developmental processes in this very diverse group of organisms. We have also taken a functional approach to studying Hox gene evolution using the technique of RNA-mediated gene inhibition (RNAi). These approaches have allowed us to study both the development of this very diverse group of organisms, and to understand how this process evolves.

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Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 26: Genetics