MOLECULAR MECHANISMS OF MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT
Our lab studies the molecular mechanisms that direct muscle development.
Muscle cells are highly specialized and their formation requires the coordinated expression of arrays of genes involved in contractility. These unique properties make muscle cells an excellent model for understanding broad developmental concepts including cell fate specification and mechanisms of differentiation.
The molecular pathways that control muscle development evolved early in the Metazoan lineage and are highly conserved among diverse species. This conservation allows us to use high throughput genetic screens in fruit flies to discover novel proteins that direct cardiac and somatic (skeletal) muscle development; most of these proteins have vertebrate counterparts with similar functions.
Our specific interests are two fold. First, we are interested in understanding how transcription factors and extracellular signals regulate cardiac development. More recently, we discovered a novel RNA regulatory pathway that coordinates skeletal muscle development. Sarcomeres are the basic contractile unit of muscle and we have identified a conserved master regulator of RNAs that encode sarcomeric proteins during embryonic muscle development. This example supports a fairly novel concept that RNAs encoding structurally similar proteins are post-transcriptionally co-regulated by a common set of RNA binding proteins. RNA co-regulation appears to be a broad developmental strategy that accurately and efficiently generates macromolecular structures in differentiating cells. We are working to define the architecture of the RNA regulatory circuits during development.