Department of Biology
Life Sciences Building
53 Campus Drive
Morgantown, WV 26506-6040
Our lab is interested in the functions of extracellular metalloproteinases (proteases that require metal ions for their activities), including disintegrin metalloproteinases (ADAMs) and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). These proteases play important roles during normal development as well as pathological processes such as cancer metastasis and immune response. At the molecular level, they regulate cell signaling, adhesion and migration through cleavage of various substrates. Our current research efforts focus on understanding the roles of these metalloproteinases in early vertebrate development. The main model organism used in our laboratory is the Western clawed frog Xenopus tropicalis, an up-and-coming model system for studying vertebrate development. This new amphibian species possesses nearly all the advantages of the more widely used Xenopus laevis but has a true diploid genome and a shorter generation time, and hence is an excellent model for molecular, developmental and genetic studies.
A particular series of developmental events that we are interested in is the induction, migration and differentiation of the neural crest. The neural crest cells are a transient species of stem/progenitor cells that exists in early vertebrate embryos. They are induced to form between the neural ectoderm and epidermis, migrate to distinct destinations and differentiate into craniofacial structures, cardiac tissues and the peripheral nervous system. Deficiencies in neural crest development may lead to some of the most common birth defects in humans, such as cleft lip/cleft palate and congenital heart diseases. Recent studies suggest that several extracellular metalloproteinases are involved in neural crest development. In particular, we and others showed that two ADAMs, ADAMs 13 and 19, are required for neural crest induction in Xenopus embryos. Our studies further suggest that ADAM13 regulates Wnt and Ephrin-B pathways, two major signaling pathways that are both essential for neural crest development. However, the detailed mechanisms underlying the important functions of these ADAMs have not been clearly delineated. Ongoing research in our lab aims to:
We are seeking highly motivated postdocs, graduate and undergrad students to join our group.