Dept.: Professor, Department of Pharmacology; Investigator, HHMI;
Director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
It is now apparent that vertebrate embryos express approximately a dozen Wnt genes during formation of mesoderm and the nervous system, that some Wnts continue to be expressed in the adult, and that these genes and their patterns of expression are highly conserved during evolution. We have focused on those Wnts expressed prior to or during gastrulation in Xenopus and zebrafish, and which are therefore candidates for being signaling factors involved in early specification of cell fate. These embryos have been particularly useful for transient expression of Wnts, enabling us to investigate whether there are distinct Wnt activities, the signal transduction pathways modulated by Wnts, the cellular targets of these signaling pathways, and how cells respond in real-time to Wnt signals to affect specific developmental processes.
Current projects in the lab focus on 1) the signal transduction pathway of Wnts, 2) cell physiological responses to Wnt signals, and 3) the roles of Wnts in embryonic processes. This last project involves both a molecular screen for zebrafish mutants, as well as analysis of how Wnt signaling specifies neural crest to become pigment cells.