Identify and characterize genes that control cell fate and cell polarity during early C. elegans development. . Embryonic patterning in C. elegans begins during the first few divisions of the fertilized egg as sister cells become committed to distinct developmental fates. These early cell fate decisions are controlled by a small set of genes that together encode several basic developmental functions, including; (a) genes whose products organize the cytoskeleton and establish the initial polarity of the embryo, (b) genes that encode cell signaling pathways, (c) genes whose products regulate mRNA translation and protein stability, and (d) genes that encode positive and negative regulators of transcription. The long term goal of this lab is to better understand how these and other, as yet unidentified, genes function to coordinate the spatial and temporal patterning of the embryo. Our experimental approach employs classical and reverse genetic techniques, molecular biology and biochemistry.
Identify and characterize genes that mediate RNAi. A powerful tool for our studies of embryogenesis involves a reverse genetic method called RNA interference or simply “RNAi.” This method is similar conceptually to “antisense” however the active agent is double stranded RNA and the interference effect is remarkably specific, potent and long lived. RNAi is having a truly dramatic impact on research in this organism making it possible to easily induce “knock out” phenotypes for nearly all worm genes. We are now investigating the genetics of the interference mechanism in the hope that we can better understand and use this tool.