Expertise: Developmental Biology with an emphasis on the genetic control of growth
My lab is interested in the question of growth control. How do tissues in a developing animal “know” when to stop growing? We use Drosophila melanogaster, more commonly known as the fruit fly, to discover the identity of genes critical for controlling tissue growth. Importantly, many of the genes we study in the fly have homologs (related genes with similar functions) in humans, so what we learn about the role of a particular gene and its protein product in the fly likely has direct relevance for tissue growth in humans as well.
Our current work is centered around a newly-characterized, evolutionarily conserved signaling pathway called the “Hippo pathway”. The normal role for the Hippo pathway is to restrict tissue growth. We are interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of how the Hippo pathway exerts its growth-suppressing activity, as well as identifying new pathway members. The fruit fly is arguably the most powerful genetic model organism available, allowing us to combine classic and transgenic genetic techniques with molecular biology, cell biology, and protein biochemistry to better understand the functions of Hippo pathway proteins in the cell.
Boggiano JC, Vanderzalm PJ, Fehon RG. 2011. Tao-1 Phosphorylates Hippo/MST Kinases to Regulate the Hippo-Salvador-Warts Tumor Suppressor Pathway. Developmental Cell 21: 888-895.
Vanderzalm PJ, Pandey A, Hurwitz ME, Bloom L, Horvitz HR, Garriga G. 2009. C. elegans CARMIL negatively regulates UNC-73/Trio function during neuronal development. Development 136:1201-1210.