We are studying early vertebrate embryonic development. We employ a wide range of experimental approaches including biochemical, molecular and cell biological, optogenetic, and genomic approaches, to investigate the mechanisms governing the formation of vertebrate body plan and early germline development. We perform functional assays in the amphibian Xenopus, mammalian cells, and zebrafish mutants.
During early embryonic development, a small number of signaling pathways are used repeatedly to induce the formation of three germ layers, and to specify the dorsal/ventral and anterior/posterior axes. We are studying the molecular mechanisms through which the Wnt, FGF, Shh pathways establish the vertebrate body plan. We try to understand regulation of these signaling pathways in early embryos and how these signaling pathways dictate cell fate determination and lineage development during early development.
We have a long-standing interest in early germline development. In both Xenopus and zebrafish, this developmental process is controlled by maternal RNAs and proteins located in the germ plasm. These germline determinants are synthesized during oogenesis and stored in fully-grown oocytes in an inactive state. We are studying the activation and remodeling of these germline determinants during the oocyte-to-embryo transition, and the mechanisms by which germline determinants specify primordial germ cells and initiate the germline development in early embryos.