Using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, our laboratory takes a molecular genetic approach to basic questions in biology:
- How are the properties of an organism -its development, physiology and behavior- encoded in its genome?
- How are signals among cells integrated to coordinate organ formation?
- How do genes control the ability to execute stereotyped behavior?
- How does behavior evolve?
- What changes in the nervous system occur during sleep?
- How do cells migrate accurately?
Our major strategy is to perturb the activity of one or more genes and measure how cells or animals misbehave to infer gene function and genetic pathways. We measure gene expression by RNA-seq and transgenic reporters; we measure behavior using automated systems and optogenetics. We focus on intercellular signals and their transduction by the responding cell into transcriptional outputs. Many of the genes we have identified are the nematode counterparts of human genes, and we expect that some of our findings will apply to human genes as well. Nematodes are major health and agricultural problems, so we focus on parasite relevant biology such as dauer/infective juvenile development, using genomics and molecular genetics.