My lab is interested in how, during embryonic development, cells of the nervous system acquire their specific fates, so that they display the distinct characteristics necessary for their proper function. We have been examining how neural crest cells make cell fate choices in the zebrafish embryo, an emerging vertebrate developmental system with distinct advantages for cellular, molecular and genetic study. The neural crest generates the neurons and glia of the peripheral nervous system, as well as pigment cells and craniofacial cartilages. We are interested in how environmental factors such as wnts and BMPs are involved in specifying these cell fates. We have also performed a genetic screen to identify genes involved in the specification of particular lineages. We have identified mutations affecting the development of dorsal root ganglia, the enteric nervous system, jaw cartilages and pigment cells. Our overall goal is to determine how these genes regulate differentiation into specific cell types, identify upstream factors regulating their expression and the downstream effectors that confer specific cell characteristics.