Vulval development in Caenorhabditis elegans, Regulation and function of gene networks, Evolution of developmental mechanisms Specification of cell fate during development involves a large number of genes that interact with each other and are expressed in dynamic patterns. My lab is interested in understanding the function and evolution of gene networks that control cell proliferation and differentiation. Alterations in gene regulation have been shown to give rise to severe developmental abnormalities including hereditary diseases and cancers. Hence, a fundamental understanding of gene regulatory networks is critical for gaining important insights into the pathogenesis of human diseases. Toward this goal, we are studying vulva development in an established model organism, Caenorhabditis elegans and a closely related species, Caenorhabditis briggsae. The hermaphrodite vulva provides a unique opportunity to identify genes and study their regulation and function during development. In C. elegans, vulva is formed by the progeny of three out of six multipotential vulval precursor cells (VPCs) that divide three times to give rise to twenty-two cells. The vulval progeny differentiate during L4 larval stage to generate seven different cell types leading to the formation of an adult vulva. The invariant lineage of the VPCs and stereotypic positions of their progeny offer experimental analyses at single-cell resolution.
Cell and Developmental Biology; Genetics & Molecular Biology