Cell and Developmental Biology

What is Cell and Developmental Biology

The goal of cell and developmental biology research is to understand how individual cells are compartmentalized, and how the proliferation and differentiation of cells is controlled to form distinct tissues and organ systems. Cell and developmental biology researchers use a wide variety of experimental approaches including biochemistry, structural biology, cell biology, imaging, genetics, and molecular biology to understand how cells respond to developmental and environmental signals, and how aberrant developmental processes contribute to diseases such as cancer.

Our research in the area of Cell and Developmental Biology

Research in the Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology (BMP) department covers diverse aspects of cell and developmental biology. BMP has particular strengths in several areas including developmental biology, signaling, and cell compartmentalization. The Ryder and Sagerstrom labs use molecular genetic approaches in C. elegans and zebrafish to understand patterning in the brain, organization of the early embryo, and neuronal differentiation and maturation. The Rando lab is exploring how parental diet triggers epigenetic changes in the gene expression patterns of their offspring. The McCollum and Pryciak groups are studying how protein kinase signaling pathways integrate various inputs to make decisions regarding cell proliferation and differentiation. The BMP department also has a focus on how the nucleus and secretory system are organized. The Pederson group is using imaging and CRISPR-based approaches to reveal principles governing chromosome and nuclear organization. The Gilmore lab is studying how proteins enter the endoplasmic reticulum and undergo subsequent post-translational modifications, and the Munson group is using structural biology and genetic approaches to determine how membrane fusion machinery  functions to target secretory vesicles to the correct location. 

Our breakthrough discoveries 

Development:  The Rando, Ryder, and Sagerstrom labs are making major advances in understanding development of the early embryo. The Rando lab has recently discovered a novel and surprising role for the epididymis in the biogenesis of small RNAs in maturing sperm, and has further shown that a specific tRNA fragment controls early gene regulation in the preimplantation mouse embryo. By identifying RNA recognition determinants of maternal RNA binding proteins, the Ryder lab is uncovering the network of maternal RNA regulation during C. elegans germline development and embryogenesis. The Sagerstrom lab has discovered a role for TALE transcription factors in activation of the embryonic genome after fertilization.

Signaling:  The McCollum lab uncovered mechanisms for how the Hippo signaling pathway controls cell proliferation, differentiation and organ size control in response to changes in the mechanical environment of the tissue, and the Pryciak lab has discovered how specific cyclin-CDK complexes recognize distinct substrates and use multi-site phosphorylation to control signaling proteins. 

Nuclear organization:  The Pederson laboratory has recently devised CRISPR-based methods to image multiple genomic loci to track the locales and movements of interphase chromsomes in human and other eukaryotic cells.

Secretory system:  The Gilmore lab’s research concerning the mechanism of asparagine linked glycosylation in the endoplasmic reticulum has established how metazoan cells use two oligosaccharyltransferase complexes with distinct localizations and kinetic properties to maximize the efficiency of protein N-glycosylation in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum. The Munson lab has made major inroads in determining the molecular architecture, protein-protein interactions, and functions of conserved eukaryotic factors that regulate membrane targeting and fusion.

Our PIs that are conducting research in the area of Cell and Developmental Biology 

Job Dekker

Reid Gilmore

Anthony Imbalzano

Kendall Knight

William Kobertz

Dannel McCollum

Stephen Miller


Mary Munson

Teresita Padilla-Benavides

Thoru Pederson

Peter Pryciak

Oliver Rando


Nick Rhind

Sean Ryder

Charles Sagerström


Paul Thompson


Zuoshang Xu

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