Three color confocal micrograph of a butterfly embryo. The segment polarity genes cubitus interruptus (red) and engrailed (green) are expressed in the anterior and posterior compartments of each segment of the embryo respectively, and the Distal-less gene (blue) is expressed in the distal region of each of the developing appendages. (Image courtesy of Jane Selegue, Craig Brunetti and Sean Carroll)
The molecular mechanisms of development are the primary focus of the faculty in the area of developmental biology. Genetic, biochemical, molecular, and genomic approaches are used to identify regulatory mechanisms that govern the behavior of embryonic cells.
One of our major strengths in this area is exploration of the mechanisms by which transcription factors, cytosolic regulators, and extracellular cues determine cell position and fate in the embryo. A major emphasis is on the use of genetic approaches to study early patterning in C.elegans, insects such as Drosophila melanogaster, and zebrafish. Other studies use mammalian and chick models to focus on discrete molecules such as steroids, growth factors, and signaling receptors that regulate development, and on transcriptional regulators in the specification of cell fate. Finally, the cellular mechanisms of cell movement in embryos are being intensively studied in C. elegans, zebrafish, and amphibian embryos.
Students have the opportunity to use powerful imaging technologies to study cell behavior, transgenic and "knockout" technologies to understand the importance of individual molecules in early development, as well as a wealth of genomics and bioinformatics resources to study the development of major model organisms.