Developmental Biology

An ancient manual for the assembly of creatures from Planet Earth*

How does the genome of an egg control cell division, cell movement, and cellular differentiation to produce a multicellular organism? How does evolution manipulate this program so that a better adapted life form is produced?

For the answers to these questions and more, students should consider taking Introduction to Dev Biol. If you have taken Genetics you can also take the advanced course Dev Genetics.

To do research in Developmental Biology, prospective graduate students and undergrads are encouraged to apply to work in our lab. We are interested in understanding how cell lineage and cell movement control cell fate during early development. Vignettes from some of our projects are below.

*Tools not required.
harpy mut

Early Cell Cycle Control

How is the early cell cycle controlled? In the zebrafish mutant screen in Tübingen, we identified genes that, when mutant, produced the Early Arrest Phenotypes. Almost all of these have turned out to be cell cycle genes. One example is shown above, harpy, a phenotype caused by a mutation in the gene emi1 that is necessary for mitosis. In this mutant, mitosis is bypassed and cells enter the next cycle, going through S-phase. As they continue to bypass mitosis, the nuclei ultimately accumulate 4 to 8 times the normal amount of DNA!

Read more in our Riley 2010 paper...




How do cells move to produce the elegant changes in morphology seen in the early embryo? In this project we are trying to figure out how the blastoderm thins during a morphogenetic process termed epiboly. We found that the molecule E-cadherin is mutated in half baked mutants, and this molecule is necessary for the process of radial intercalation, shown above.

This figure is from our Kane 2005 paper...


blood lineage

Blood Lineage

How do stem stems divide to produce one daughter cell that becomes differentiated but another daughter that remains a stem cell, like its mother cell? In a new project spearheaded by Rachel Warga, we have been examining the early lineages of the primitive blood, using clonal analysis to establish relationships amongst the blood cells. The above figure summarizes some of our new findings showing the early lineage relationship between red and white blood cells, and their origins in the gastrula stage embryo.

Our exciting Warga 2009 paper was in Dev Cell...