Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Genes required for development of the somatic musculature in vertebrates are poorly understood. Due to thousand of cells undergoing multiple waves of fusion over long time periods, it has been difficult to study this process in the developing embryo, and much of the present knowledge stems from in vitro studies. Fortunately, vertebrate and insect myogenesis are mechanistically well conserved, and involve similar processes, such as cell recognition, cell adhesion, and cell fusion. Consequently, studies of muscle development in the genetically amenable model organism Drosophila melanogaster have provided key insights into genes required for myoblast fusion, many of which are also required for multiple developmental processes. Currently our laboratory is focused on identifying new genes that function in Drosophila myoblast fusion by taking advantage of both genetic and biochemical approaches. Our primary focus is to identify and integrate new genes and proteins into ordered molecular pathways for a further understanding of the fusion process. Additional interests include applying this knowledge to other developmental pathways in Drosophila where these molecules may have diverse roles, as well as investigating the relevance to vertebrate myogenesis in hopes of better understanding basic muscle biology and disease.