Professor of Biology
Our research is directed at elucidating mechanisms underlying morphogenetic processes in development. We primarily use the model system C. elegans in our research, and combine powerful genetic and systems biology approaches with live-cell imaging to address three main topics: <div><ul><li><b> </b><b>Tissue Remodeling and Connection</b></li></ul></div><div>A major focus of the lab is the understanding of mechanisms underlying uterine-vulval attachment. A key aspect of this process is the invasion of a single uterine cell, the anchor cell, through the uterine and vulval basement membranes, which initiates uterine-vulval connection. The ability of cells to invade through basement membrane is crucial for many developmental processes and remains one of the least understood aspects in the progression of cancer. We have begun to apply what we learn in the anchor cell to better understand how cancer cells become invasive. Our group also examines other aspects of uterine-vulval attachment, including control of cell division, cell-cell signaling, cell-cell attachments and basement membrane remodeling.
</div><div><ul><li><b>Stem Cell-Niche Interactions</b></li></ul></div><div>We are examining the cell biological aspects of cell-cell and cell-basement membrane establishment of the germ stem cell niche. We are particularly interested in how somatic and germ cells interact to maintain the germ stem cells. We have made the surprising discovery that germ cells that escape their niche appear capable of inducing naïve somatic cells to take on the role of the niche cells. We are conducting screens and performing live-cell imaging studies to understand this novel behavior.</div><div><b><br></b></div><div><ul><li><b>Nutritional Regulation of Late Larval Development</b> </li></ul></div><div>In collaboration with Dr. Ryan Baugh's lab, we are examining the developmental response of late larvae to starvation. We have identified specific developmental checkpoints that larvae enter in response to the absence of food. These studies have many fascinating implications in our understanding of how cells arrest at specific developmental time-points, how an organism and cells enter and exit quiescent states, and how these impinge on life-span. </div><div><br></div><div>Members of our group are trained in a diverse range of scientific approaches and join a vibrant scientific community at Duke University, the Research Triangle region and the worldwide group of worm researchers.</div>