J. D. Furlow
ProfessorDepartment of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behvior
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
General/Lab Fax: (530)652-5582
Metamorphosis in Xenopus represents one of the most dramatic effect of any hormone in nature. We are studying the molecular mechanisms underlying how thyroid hormone, which also critically regulates brain development and overall metabolism in humans, induces a wide variety of tissue changes that turn the purely aquatic tadpole into the adult frog. These remarkable changes are mediated by specific thyroid hormone receptor subtypes that act as ligand regulated transcription factors. However, the precise role of each receptor subtype in tissue specific and developmental stage specific responses to the hormone are unclear. We are using a variety of pharmacological and genetic tools to alter the expression and activity of each receptor subtype, and test their importance in specific pathways during early development and thyroid hormone dependent metamorphosis. These studies will contribute to our understanding of tissue specific actions of hormones in a developmental context, using this highly evolutionarily conserved endocrine signaling system. Another important aspect of our work is determining the effect of environmental chemicals on proper thyroid hormone signaling in vertebrate development. We are further applying the available genetic technologies now available in the organism to produce tadpoles that express easily measurable, hormone responsive reporter genes. This will allow us to detect proper temporal and spatial thyroid hormone action in vivo, in response to both endogenous hormones and potential environmental contaminants. Thus, our research is focused on answering basic questions regarding thyroid hormone’s action during development, with clear biomedical and environmental toxicology applications.