Multiple studies have now demonstrated that it is not the number of genes that are critical for the structural differences observed between animals, but how the many conserved orthologous genes are regulated. Throughout evolution, natural selection has found ways to keep or introduce non-coding DNA sequence, known as regulatory elements, into the genome that transcription factor proteins can bind to and control the time and place other genes are expressed. This has resulted in the large structural variation observed between organisms while still using similar homologous genes.
Our research interests lies in understanding the genetic regulation of critical structural genes and how we can use identified regulatory elements to drive gene expression at desired times and places. My experimental paradigm uses the zebrafish, Danio rerio, to understand the genetic regulation of cartilage and bone formation of the vertebrate skull and notochord. As most vertebrates share a common developmental path using homologous genes and genetic networks to produce a mature animal, the zebrafish has proven to be an excellent tool to study aspects of normal and impaired vertebrate maturation. This is due to the zebrafish being amenable to the powerful and innovative combination of genetic, embryological, molecular and high-throughput techniques.
The col2a1a regulatory elements allow detailed mapping of the process of notochord cell vacuolation and notochord sheath formation
Loyola University Chicago CAS Spotlight
"Biology and Who We Are."
Latest zebrafish research & reviews from Nature.com