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During early embryogenesis cells differentiate into the right cell type, in the right place, and at the right time. How this process is regulated, how a body map or plan is established is still poorly understood. A class of genes, called homeobox genes, which encode DNA-binding proteins are thought to play a role in setting a developmental agenda. The products of these genes bind to other genes and regulate their activity. In a sense they can be thought of as master control switches for developmental programs.
Our recent interests have focused upon problems relating to head, face, and heart development. In the lab, we have been manipulating frog embryos to study the role of these genes in this process. In particular, we have been trying to elucidate the effects of gain and loss of function of Pitx gene family members in an effort to define the role that they play during craniofacial modeling. We have completed a microarray survey and have identified potential down stream targets of Pitx3 in the pathways that regulate eye, somite, heart and gut. Other projects we will be pursuing involve: the role of these and related genes during limb development, regulation, and regeneration; the role of retinoids in the regulation of pattern formation; and the role of Cyclase Associated Proteins (CAP1 and CAP2) in early development.