In the Range lab, we focus on one of the fundamental questions in developmental biology - how signaling transduction pathways control the gene regulatory networks that specify and pattern territories along the major axes during early embryonic development. We are particularly interested in both the early regulatory mechanism(s) that activate the anterior neuroectoderm and the role of a Wnt signaling network we have identified that separates this territory from the epidermal ectoderm and the posterior endomesoderm along the anterior-posterior axis. We use a combination of molecular manipulations, high-throughput genome-wide assays, gene regulatory network analysis and classical embryology to study these fundamental mechanisms in deuterostome echinoderm (sea urchin) embryos. Echinoderms and vertebrates share a common ancestor, and studies have shown that many of the early regulatory mechanisms used to specify and pattern similar tissues are often conserved in deuterostomes. Thus, our studies can lead to the identification of core regulatory processes that specify and pattern vertebrate embryos along the anterior-posterior axis.
In particular, I studied the mechanism by which Fzl1/2/7-PKC signaling antagonizes Fzl5/8-JNK signaling during the anterior neuroectoderm (ANE) restriction process in sea urchins. In early development of the sea urchin embryo, ANE positioning depends on integrated information from the Wnt/β-catenin, Wnt/JNK, and Wnt/PKC pathways, forming an interconnected Wnt signaling network. We have previously shown that Fzl1/2/7-PKC pathway antagonizes the down-regulation of the ANE GRN by Wnt1/Wnt8-Fzl5/8-JNK signaling in the anterior ectodermal half of early cleavage and blastula staged embryos, allowing for the proper positioning of the ANE territory around the anterior pole. Yet, the exact mechanism by which Fzl1/2/7-PKC signaling antagonizes Fzl5/8-JNK signaling during this process is still unclear. Hence, my Ph.D. research aimed to better characterize the Fzl1/2/7 signaling pathway and the gene regulatory network (GRN) it activates to identify possible interactions between these different Wnt signaling branches during this fundamental developmental process.
Range et al., 2013
Range et al., 2013
I graduated from my Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at Auburn University in Spring 2020. I will be starting my postdoctoral research position at Röttinger lab at the Institute for Research on Cancer and Aging in Nice (IRCAN).
In my next adventure as a postdoc, I will unlock the secrets of regeneration biology in cnidarians. I am particular interested in conducting research on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underly the initiation of whole-body regeneration in the anthozoan cnidarian Nematostella vectensis.