Gerald H. Thomsen
Associate ProfessorDept.of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
SUNY at Stony Brook
Stoney Brook, NY
My lab studies the molecular mechanisms of how animal embryos develop, with prime emphasis on cell fate specification and pattern formation by inductive (cell-to-cell) signaling. We use both Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis in our investigations, and our broad focus is on regulation of early development by TGFß pathway signaling, specifically the two major branches of signaling: Vg1/nodal/activin and BMP. Experimental efforts are aimed at defining the biochemical and embryonic function of modulators of canonical Smad signal transduction. To identify new developmental regulators we are performing protein-protein interaction (PPI) screens in the lab, as well as harvesting PPI information from a broad range of systems biology studies. While Xenopus has been the traditional study organisms in the lab, I am expanding our scope to also include studies of the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Sea anemones belong to the phylum Cnidaria, which includes anemones, corals, jellyfish and hydroids (e.g. Hydra). I am interested in sea anemones because they are an ancient group among metazoa, and are considered basal to nearly all other animal phyla except sponges and ctenophores. The last time Cnidarians and vertebrates shared a common ancestor was about 700 million years ago. Therefore, by comparing the developmental programs of frogs and sea anemones we hope to gain insights into the evolution and deployment of genetic and biochemical pathways that govern development. Further, sea anemones and frogs can regenerate missing parts, and sea anemones in particular are robust regenerators. We have begun to study anemone regeneration and will compare our findings with what is known in other regeneration systems to help reveal common mechanisms and process-specific specializations.
Lab MembershipsThomsen Lab (Principal Investigator/Director)