Our long-term goal is to understand the molecular and cell biological basis of morphogenesis in multicellular organisms. Morphogenesis occurs by the coordinated movement of cells. We study how a single and fairly uniform cell responds to various extracellular signals, differentiates into different cell types and organizes themselves into a complete embryo. In particular, we study a role of Notch signaling in fate specification, differentiation, stem cell maintenance and carcinogenesis. We use zebrafish as a model organism.
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) has recently become a popular model organism to study vertebrate development and human disease. Zebrafish embryos are small, optically transparent, and they develop externally and rapidly. It allows direct visualization of cellular morphogenesis in live embryos. In addition, the zebrafish can be maintained in large numbers at low cost. These features make the zebrafish ideal for large-scale genetic screens and small-molecule screens.
1. Notch signaling in neurogenesis
The goal of this study is to advance our understanding of the link between Notch-mediated cell fate decisions and molecular mechanisms regulating morphology of individual cells. This link has been well described in developing embryos. For instance, when a neuroepithelial cell acquires a neuronal cell fate, it loses epithelial features, delaminates from the neuroepithelium and migrates to a final destination where it differentiates as a neuron. For the efficient neuronal differentiation, cell fate specification and immediate morphogenesis need to be coordinated. We study molecular mechanisms by which Notch signaling and its modulators regulate cell fate specification and morphogenesis during neurogenesis.
2. Notch signaling in cancer
Notch signaling plays a well-characterized role in cell fate specification, stem cell maintenance and cell differentiation. There is also increasing evidence that Notch signaling is dysregulated in many cancers. We study roles and mechanisms of Notch signaling in regulating proliferation and maintenance of stem cell population.
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