The forebrain, which controls our highest functions, is the most complex region of the central nervous system. It comprises a huge variety of cell types arranged in elaborate three-dimensional structures. This complex structure arises from a simple epithelial sheet, the neural plate, during early embryonic development.
Our lab is interested in understanding the molecular genetic basis for the generation of different forebrain cell types, the mechanisms by which forebrain cells interact and organize to form functional structures, and how these processes are coordinated during early embryonic development.
Model System and Methods
We use zebrafish as a model organism to study early forebrain development. Zebrafish embryos develop externally, are transparent, and are amenable to molecular and embryological manipulations. In addition, many available mutant and transgenic lines facilitate sophisticated genetic manipulations.
We combine genetic, molecular and cell biological approaches and use live imaging to address questions of cell fate specification, cell-cell interactions and tissue morphogenesis in a context that can help us better understand normal human brain development as well as birth defects and neurological conditions that result from abnormal development.
Transgenic zebrafish embryo in which
GFP expression (green) is driven in the
Current projects include:
· Cellular, molecular and genetic mechanisms that regulate development of eye progenitor cells, with focus on the role
of the transcription factor Six3.
· Development of the ventral telencephalon. Here we focus on genetic interactions between the transcription factor Six3 and
major signaling pathways that regulate development of the ventral forebrain.
Normal embryo (left) and Six3-deficient embryo, lacking eyes (right).