Developmental Biology

Embryo in UVA's Developmental Biology LabThere have been dramatic advances in recent years in our understanding of problems in developmental biology. Many questions in this discipline were formulated decades ago, but have been intractable because of the lack of adequate methods to study them. The availability of recombinant DNA techniques has revolutionized the field by enabling investigators to define critical steps in transcription and processing of developmentally regulated genes. New methods for producing monotypic antibodies have provided very precise analyses of changes in the levels of specific proteins, changes in the cell surface in embryonic cells or changes in the localization of proteins within those cells. Analysis of developmentally-controlled genes and their regulatory regions has allowed identification of specific transcription factors and related cascades of controlling reactions that couple one signal to the expression of a new constellation of proteins in the cascade. Complex developmental phenomena, such as cell determination, the control of cell differentiation, and embryonic induction of pattern formation, are becoming amenable to systematic analysis and promise an exciting challenge for the future.

At the University of Virginia, developmental biology is the major research interest of many faculty members. Research areas range from molecular analysis of alternative RNA splicing in different cell lines to highly integrated aspects of cell movement during embryological development and determination of tissue type. Several groups are concerned with understanding the structure and regulation of specific genes in differentiating cells. There is considerable intellectual exchange among members of these groups to keep abreast of this rapidly changing field. Other investigators are interested in the signals controlling cell determination and differentiation, including those involved in specific embryonic tissue interactions and the differentiation of highly synchronous populations of cultured embryonic cells. Several groups are studying the processes of oogenesis and spermatogenesis; the development of egg and sperm are intriguing models for cell differentiation and are of obvious importance in reproductive biology. These groups work not only on many different areas of developmental biology, but also on many different organisms, from Drosophila to mammals. The major topics of interest among the researchers in this group of the Cell and Molecular Biology program at the University of Virginia are the developmental process in Drosophila and the development of the reproductive system in vertebrate animals. A University-wide Developmental Biology Training Grant provides a formal network for communication among these groups.

Faculty in this area:

Mete Civelek

Civelek, Mete

Systems Genetics Approaches to Understand Cardiometabolic Traits


Jeffrey Corwin

Corwin, Jeffrey T.

Regeneration and Developmental Biology of the Hearing and Balance Organs in the Vertebrate Ear.


Christopher Deppmann

Deppmann, Christopher

Elucidating and Understanding the Mechanisms Underlying Nervous System Development


Douglas DeSimone

DeSimone, Douglas W.

Cell Adhesion and Adhesion-Dependent Cell Signaling in Vertebrate Morphogenesis


Noelle Dwyer

Dwyer, Noelle

Neural Development; Cell Division in Neural Stem Cells; Axon Outgrowth and Guidance


Charles Farber

Farber, Charles R.

Systems Genetics of Skeletal Development and Maintenance


Jay Hirsh

Hirsh, Jay

Molecular genetics; development and function of neurotransmitter-synthesizing neurons in Drosophila


Kevin Janes

Janes, Kevin A.

Systems-biology approaches to cancer biology and virology.


Hao Jiang

Jiang, Hao

Regulation of stem cell function and tumorigenesis by epigenetics and biomolecular condensation (phase separation)


Jonathan Kipnis

Kipnis, Jonathan

Neuroimmunology and glia biology in cognition, neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration



Sarah Kucenas

Kucenas, Sarah C.

The role of glia in the development, maintenance and regeneration of the nervous system


Gordon Laurie

Laurie, Gordon W.

Role of Prosecretory Mitogen 'Lacritin' in Epithelial Homeostasis, Secretion and Innate Defense


Xiaowei Lu

Lu, Xiaowei

Developmental regulation of planar cell polarity in the mammalian nervous system

Mani Mahadevan

Mahadevan, Mani S.

Molecular Mechanisms of Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy


Golam Mohi

Mohi, Golam

Cell signaling, hematopoietic stem cell biology, molecular and epigenetic mechanisms of leukemia.


Eyleen O'Rourke

O’Rourke, Eyleen Jorgelina

Obesity and Aging


Kwon-Sik Park

Park, Kwon-Sik

Mechanisms of organ development and homeostasis and tumor development


Kodi Ravichandran

Ravichandran, Kodi S.

Apoptotic cell clearance mechanisms in health and disease


Jung-Bum Shin

Shin, Jung-Bum

Auditory Neurobiology


Sarah Siegrist

Siegrist, Sarah

Regulation of neural stem cell proliferation during development and adulthood


P. Todd Stukenberg

Stukenberg, P. Todd

Mechanisms of chromosome segregation in Mitosis and generation of Chromosomal Instability in tumors


Christine Thisse

Thisse, Christine I.

Molecular Mechanisms of Early Vertebrate Development and Morphogenesis. Application to Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine


Bettina Winckler

Winckler, Bettina

Endosomal function and dysfunction in neurons. Development of the nervous system: cytoskeleton and membrane traffic in axon and dendrite growth.


David Wotton

Wotton, David

Regulation of Gene Expression, Development and Tumor Progression by TGF beta Signaling


Chongzhi Zang

Zang, Chongzhi

Bioinformatics methodology development; Epigenetics and chromatin biology; Transcriptional regulation; Cancer genomics and epigenomics; Statistical methods for biomedical data integration; Theoretical and computational biophysics


Hui Zong

Zong, Hui

Early detection, cancer prevention, and tumor microenvironment