Priess, James

Faculty Profile

First Name: 
Last Name: 
[field_fname-formatted] [field_lname-formatted]
Primary Institution: 
Basic Sciences
Mail/Box #: 

Box 358080/A3-013

Office Location: 

A3 107 Weintraub Building FHCRC

Office Phone: 
(206) 667-2871
Alternate Phone: 
(206) 667-4525

Research Summary: 

We work on embryogenesis and germ cell development with the model organism C. elegans, and use a combination of genetics, molecular biology and extensive live imaging. We study how cell fates are specified and how cells are shaped to create functional organs.  Epithelial tubes are a widespread component of animal organs, and we have examined how C. elegans forms the various tubes that make up the digestive tract (pharynx, valve, and intestine).  We recently showed that the pharynx originates from a bilaterally symmetrical primoridium, and that the pharyngeal cells are polarized by signaling from laminin at their basal surfaces.  In response to this signal, the cells constrict their apical surfaces and form a tube.  Remarkably, some of the cells eventually become single cell tubes.  Two of these cells initially are positioned at the dorsal side of the pharyngeal primordium, but during morphogenesis invade the ventral side. Invasion occurs on a novel, transient tract of laminin that appears on the lateral surfaces of the target cells. After entering the ventral side, the invading cells circle back on themselves to create donut-shapes. Each cell self-fuses, rather than cross-fuses, by expressing distinct fusogens; these and other differences between the cells are controlled by Notch signaling, and part of our work is focused on these Notch-dependent events.  We are using forward and reverse genetics to understand the molecular basis for these events. 

Our current work on germ cell development is focused on the role of the microtubule cytoskeleton.  We recently discovered that C. elegans expresses an endogenous retrovirus at very high levels in germ cells, and that the viral capsids accumulate on exceptionally stable microtubules.  The capsids appear to target germ nuclei when these microtubules are destabilized.  We have tagged the capsids for live imaging and are using capsid location as a tool for examining the biology of stable vs labile microtubules in germ cells structure and function.  

Short Research Description: 
embryogenesis and germ cell development
Areas of Interest: 
Developmental Biology, Stem Cells & Aging
<p> Developmental Biology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Molecular Biology</p>

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