We use the powerful genetic model organism Drosophila melanogaster to discover and understand the genes and mechanisms that:
Govern animal development
Underlie human disease
We always have a diverse range of projects in progress.
Fully funded PhD positions available!
Terminal patterning is the process by which the unsegmented regions at the ends (or termini) of the early embryo become defined. This occurs via a set of maternal proteins that activate a highly conserved cell signalling cascade only in the terminal regions. Understanding how spatial control is achieved and the mechanisms at work are of key interest to our lab. Such mechanisms are likely to be operating during our own development.
Morphogenesis is the process by which multicellular organisms like us take on a 3-dimensional form. Tissue folding is one way by which this is achieved and requires tight coordination. Shortly after the fly embryo has patterned, it undergoes a spectacular transformation whereby large regions of the embryo surface become internalised. The initiation of this process requires a cell signalling event. We are keen to understand how this is regulated outside of the cells.
CONTROL OF GROWTH and proliferation
In order for a larva to become a reproductive adult fly, it must undergo metamorphosis. This is a tricky decision for a larva - do it too soon and risk not surviving or being an unfit small adult; or do it too late and you have more chance of being eaten. These decisions are controlled by many factors that culminate in the synthesis of a hormone that makes a larva initiate metamorphosis. Several of these factors are cell signalling molecules reused from early embryo patterning that, in the larva, also control aspects of hormone synthesis. We have found several new genes that control this process and are currently learning about how they work.
UNderstanding human disease
Approximately 75% of human genes that cause disease have a close fly relative gene. This means that genes that are conserved tend to be more associated with human disease and that the fly can be used to understand how many of the human disease-causing genes work. This latter point led us to generate a library of human genes for expression in flies in collaboration with Prof Hugo Bellen (HHMI, Baylor College of Medicine). We are now using this resource in collaboration with clinical geneticists to aid in the discovery of novel human disease genes in the hope that this information may eventually lead to patient therapies.
We are working on several new innovative interdisciplinary imaging methods in collaboration with A/Prof Alex de Marco and Prof James Whisstock and technology platforms at Monash University.