My lab combines molecular and genetic approaches to investigate the mechanisms that control development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
One area of research is the regulation of transposable element activity. We want to know why certain C. elegans transposons are more active in somatic cells than in the germ line. We have isolated mutants (termed mutators) that disrupt this tissue-specific control. Current work is focused on identifying the mutator genes and understanding how they regulate several transposon families in different tissues. This work will contribute to our understanding of transpo sition and its control, and provide insight into the molecular basis of the germ/soma difference, a long standing question in developmental biology.
A second area of research in the lab involves identifying and characterizing C. elegans homologs of certain oncogenes. While it is clear that these genes play a central role in cell regulation in higher organisms, an understanding of how the encoded gene products function to accomplish this regulation is often lacking. Using methods recently developed in the worm (many relying on the transposons we study), we will introduce mutations into the corresponding C. elegans genes. Our goal is to understand their role in regulating cell division and differentiation during C. elegans development.