Associate ProfessorUniversity of Alabama
School of Medicine
Dept of Cell Biology
Birmingham , AL
The research in my laboratory is focused on control of early vertebrate development by different growth factor signals. The model system used in the lab is the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis. The following research projects are currently ongoing in the lab. 1) Regulation of neural induction and patterning by TGF beta, FGF and Wnt signals. TGF beta (transformation growth factor beta) signals can be divided into two branches, those of TGF beta/Activin/Nodal and BMPs. We recently showed that both branches play important roles in inhibition of neural induction. Suppression of both Nodal and BMP signals is required for early neural development. The downstream nuclear factors that mediate TGF beta signals in neural formation have not been illustrated in detail, and the interplay between TGF beta and other signals, include those of FGF and Wnt, is not well understood. These issues will be further investigated in the lab. 2) Regulation of cell movements and morphogenesis by ErbB signaling pathway. During vertebrate development, cells undergo extensive rearrangement and movements to form proper tissue architecture. One major early cell movement event is gastrulation, in which mesoderm and endoderm move inside the embryos. We recently showed that ErbB signaling modulates cell movements during gastrulation. ErbBs seem to regulate cell adhesion to affect cell behaviors. The detailed mechanisms on how ErbB signaling affects cadherin-mediated of cell adhesion and regulates actin cytoskeleton reorganization will be studied in the lab. The cytoplasmic factors involved in mediating the effect of ErbB signaling on cell movements are also being investigated.