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The central goal in my lab is to understand the role of hormones in development and evolution. Hormones play critical roles in nearly all developmental events, including the development of many diseases. In addition, evolutionary changes in hormonal control of development underlie morphological, physiological, and behavioral differences between species. Understanding how hormones control development will illuminate avenues for disease treatment and will provide a basis for explaining species differences and biodiversity.
We use frogs as a model system to gain basic knowledge about hormonal control of development. Frog development is ideal for our studies because the tadpole is usually free living and because the dramatic morphological and physiological events of metamorphosis are completely dependent on hormones. To study how hormones affect development, we use the African clawed frog which is the model frog used in developmental studies. These animals are easy to maintain in the laboratory, and valuable molecular and genomic tools are available. To examine the evolution of hormonal control of development, we use a variety of frogs, which have unusual tadpoles, including carnivorous tadpoles and direct developers. We manipulate development of the frog larvae by transgenic techniques and/or by using hormones or hormone blocking compounds. These manipulations are followed by examination of gross morphology, histology, and gene expression.