Dynamics of Developmental Systems
To gain a comprehensive and dynamic understanding of embryonic development is a formidable challenge, as hundreds of genes function at any particular moment to effect developmental change. To assay progression of developmental events, we develop and employ novel technologies for making temporally relevant observations using a combined approach of imaging, computation, and molecular biology. In particular, we have focused significant efforts towards development of technology and methodology to support quantitative data acquisition ('in vivo phenotyping'), which lends to more clear comparison of wildtype and mutant phenotype.
Two goals of our research program are to better understand (i) the cis-regulatory mechanisms by which spatial and temporal gene expression is controlled and (ii) how signaling pathways function to control differentiation and to regulate cell movements. We use large-scale whole genome observations to reveal the genes and cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) that comprise these networks and defined experiments to understand how they come together to control cellular behaviors within the Drosophila melanogaster model system. Most of our studies have focused on early embryonic development up to and including gastrulation, as large gene expression changes and strong cell movements are required to turn the totipotent blastula into a multi-layered embryo of distinct cell types. In addition, recent efforts have extended our focus to the cis-regulatory and signaling mechanisms guiding development of specialized tissues, in the wing and female germline.