Homeobox genes encode a large and vitally important family of embryonically expressed transcription factors that regulate the essential processes of development. We are currently investigating the Dlx gene family during chick and mouse development. Unravelling the functions and mechanisms of action of this multi-member homeobox family promises to reveal larger truths about the cell-type specificity of protein function, the nature of functional redundancy, the acquisition of novel protein functions, and the evolution of animal bodies.
The chicken embryo has a distinguished history in developmental biology as a model vertebrate organism for the ability of investigators to manipulate embryonic tissues and, more recently, levels of gene activity. For us, the chicken embryo holds a central position in our attempts to decipher the mechanisms that regulate gene expression, cell fate, and morphogenesis. We combine in vivo experiments like retroviral-mediated transgenesis in chicken embryos with in vitro and cellular studies that, together, define the biochemical basis for biological functions. These studies are often complemented with molecular genetic approaches in the mouse.
Current projects include:
- Defining the function of Dlx genes in chondrocyte differentiation
- Investigating Dlx-mediated craniofacial patterning
- Identifying novel Dlx co-factors
- Structure-function analyses of Dlx-mediated transcription