Graduate Training in Neuroscience
University of Washington
Mark S. Cooper
Associate Professor, Department of Biology
During early development, cellular ensembles within vertebrate embryos exhibit extraordinary sequences of transient, stereotyped morphogenetic behaviors that are expressed in a region-specific manner. To better understand the social interactions of cell populations during early embryogenesis, my laboratory is investigating linkages between pattern formation, tissue morphogenesis, and the dynamic cytological activities of cells in the embryos of teleost fish.
Much of our research focuses into the zebrafish embryo, which provides an excellent, optically-transparent, experimental system in which to determine how genetically-encoded morphogenetic cell behaviors are orchestrated to form the germ layers and primary organ rudiments in a living, intact vertebrate embryo. New combinations or fluorescence labeling and time-lapse confocal imaging now make it possible to monitor the collective morphogenetic movements of hundreds of cells simultaneously, allowing the intricate social behavior of embryonic cells within organ-forming primordia (such as the neural plate) to be studied in detail.
Experimentally, we combine visualization technologies with molecular manipulations to perturb and analyze morphogenetic processes in both wild-type and selected mutant zebrafish embryos. We alter developmental processes by overexpressing microinjected RNA probes encoding GFP-linked signal molecules, or by stably inserting foreign genes into the zebrafish genome to make uniquely modified transgenic fish. My laboratory is currently working on several topics dealing with patterning and morphogenesis in zebrafish embyros:
- specification and sub-division of the Organizer Region (dorsal marginal zone);
- the cytomechanics of epiboly and gastrulation;
- cellular behaviors underlying the convergence and infolding of the neuroepithelium during neurulation.