Department of Cell and Developmental Biology Areas of Research

Biology of Hereditary Disorders
Cell Cycle, Cancer and Aging
Cell Motility and Cytoskeleton
Cell Signaling and Regulatory Networks
Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation of Gene Expression
Mammalian Development and Differentiation
Musculoskeletal Biology and Pathology
Neurobiology and Brain Disorders
Nuclear Structure and Function
Reproductive Biology
Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
Biology of Hereditary Disorder

Biology of Hereditary Disorders

Revolutionary advances in genome research provide rich opportunities to investigate pathogenesis and therapy of disease and to illuminate fundamental questions of cell function. Beyond specific gene defects, novel “non-coding” RNA and DNA elements may impact epigenetic regulation. Inherited conditions currently studied include: polycystic kidney disease, blindness, Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome, skeletal defects, laminopathies (muscular dystrophy and progeria), and cancer predisposition. Cellular and molecular approaches are augmented by innovative uses of stem cells, bioinformatics, and genetic engineering.
Lawrence - lab website
Luna
Morabito
Odgren - lab website
Witman - lab website
Cell Cycle, Cancer and Aging

Cell Cycle, Cancer and Aging

Many cancers arise from defects in cell biology, including osteosarcoma and soft tissue sarcoma, leukemia and lymphoma, and carcinoma of the skin, liver, colon, breast and prostate. Research investigates cell growth regulation and the links between dysregulated cell growth, cancer, and aging. Topics include genetic and epigenetic regulation of oncogenes and tumor suppressors, and other factors that regulate the cell cycle, mediate cell senescence, control chromosome segregation, and govern cell motility. Links between chromatin structure and/or nuclear structure and tumorigenesis are being explored, as are the links between tumor suppression and aging.
Imbalzano
Jones- lab website
Lawrence - lab website
Luna
Sluder
Zhang - lab website
Cell Motility and Cytoskeleton

Cell Motility and Cytoskeleton

The cytoskeleton is a system of cellular protein filaments and tubules that give three-dimensional structure and support to cells, and in combination with motor proteins enables cells to change shape, move, and transport internal components from one location to another. Cytoskeletal malfunction underlies numerous disorders, including muscular dystrophy, hearing loss, and infertility. Research focuses on the structure, function and assembly of the cytoskeleton in neurons, muscle, epithelial and germ cells, and its role in cell motility processes including cell division, chemotaxis, morphogenesis, ciliary beating and muscle contraction.
Craig lab website
Florman
Luna
Morabito
Rivera - lab website
Schwarting
Sluder
Witman - lab website
Cell Signaling and Regulatory Networks

Cell Signaling and Regulatory Networks

Signal transduction pathways play central roles in embryonic development by regulating aspects of cell specification, proliferation, differentiation, organogenesis and tissue morphogenesis. Many pathways remain active to regulate tissue renewal and plasticity postnatally. A major goal is to understand the mechanisms by which components of various pathways may act autonomously or can be shared and integrated between multiple pathways. Areas of interest include calcium and phospoinositide signaling in early events in mammalian fertilization, Wnt signaling in establishment of the primary axes during early mouse development, cAMP-dependent signaling in regulation of axon guidance in sensory neurons, and postsynaptic signaling in glutamatergic synapses in regulation of synaptic plasticity and learning and memory.
Florman
Luna
Morabito
Rivera - lab website
Schwarting
Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation of Gene Expression

Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation of Gene Expression

The complicated interplay between eukaryotic RNA polymerases, transcription factors, cofactors, histone modifying and ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling enzymes, and the structural proteins that comprise the chromatin ultimately results in the appropriate regulation of transcription initiation and elongation. Post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression by mRNA stability and microRNA function brings an added level of complexity to gene regulation.
Imbalzano
Jones - lab website
Lawrence - lab website
Nickerson
Rivera - lab website
Mammalian Development and Differentiation

Mammalian Development and Differentiation

The study of embryonic development is fundamental for understanding the normal and abnormal development of an individual and is basic for studies in Cancer and Stem Cell biology. Department of Cell Biology research encompasses multiple aspects of mammalian development that include embryo patterning and X-inactivation, male gonad differentiation, fertilization, aspects of development influenced by ciliary function and the mechanisms of cellular senescence. Studies focus on the differentiation of muscle, bone and adipose tissues and in the signaling and transcriptional events that lead to the differentiation and guidance of neurons. Research on higher order chromatin structure and regulation of Histone gene expression, provides a molecular perspective to our developmental and differentiation studies.
Florman
Imbalzano
Jones - lab website
Lawrence - lab website
Lee
Morabito
Odgren - lab website
Rivera - lab website
Schwarting
Witman - lab website
Zhang - lab website
Musculoskeletal Biology and Pathology

Musculoskeletal Biology and Pathology

The Department of Cell Biology has unique programs that bring together a focus on the molecular, cellular and genetic models to understand regulatory mechanisms for the formation and homeostasis of bone and cartilage. Mechanisms regulating cell population in the MSK system are being addressed. Pathologic disorders currently being investigated include osteopetrosis, metastatic bone disease, chondrodysplasia related to dwarfism, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, and bone loss related to age, embryonic malformations associated with disruption of signaling pathways and transcription factor networks. Analysis of bone tissue from humans and mouse models are supported by Core facilities that include genetic and proteomic analysis, specialized histology, in vivo molecular imaging, scanning and electron microscopy and high resolution micro-computed tomography.
Craig - lab website
Imbalzano
Luna
Odgren - lab website
Neurobiology and Brain Disorders

Neurobiology and Brain Disorders

Directed at understanding the development and function of the mammalian nervous system and the molecular and cellular basis of human developmental, psychiatric, and neurodegenerative disorders, mechanisms of disease as well as gene therapy approaches are pursued. Mechanistic areas of interest include regulation of molecular cues and signaling and scaffolding molecules that control cell identity, neuronal position and differentiation, axon growth and guidance, cell survival and apoptosis, and synapse function and dysfunction. Disorders currently under investigation include schizophrenia, Leber congenital amaurosis, Down Syndrome and Alzheimer Disease.
Lawrence - lab website
Morabito
Schwarting
Witman - lab website
Nuclear Structure and Function

Nuclear Structure and Function

The nucleus architecturally organizes nucleic acid metabolism. The DNA containing chromatin, an RNA containing nuclear matrix, and the nuclear lamina/envelope are interconnected structures. Subassemblies at their intersections spatially organize DNA replication, RNA transcription, RNA processing, the packaging of DNA into active or silenced chromatin, and other processes. Changes in these structural inter-relationships are a major driver of disease, including cancer and premature aging.
Imbalzano 
Lawrence - lab website
Nickerson
Reproductive Biology

Reproductive Biology

Reproduction involves differentiation of gonads during development and the production of functional gametes, including sperm that can respond to regulatory cues from the female reproductive tract and interact with eggs. Following fusion with sperm, eggs must be able to re-enter the mitotic cell cycle and activate a program of development that includes genetic and epigenetic processes. Ongoing research in the Department focuses on the identification of genes that control these events, as well as the cell physiological and molecular mechanisms of reproduction.
Florman
Lawrence - lab website
Lee
Sluder
Witman - lab website
Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine

Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine

Human embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells (iPS) provide novel dimensions to understanding development, differentiation and tissue remodeling. These pluripotent cells are a cornerstone for regenerative medicine and offer options for treatment of acquired and inherited diseases that resist traditional strategies for drug design and discovery.
Imbalzano
Jones - lab website
Lawrence - lab website
Nickerson
Rivera - lab website
Zhang - lab website