Developmental mechanism of organ morphogenesis in vertebrates
Organ morphology is established during embryogenesis by the developmental mechanism that is controlled by the genetic program encoded in the genome. The mechanism causes cells to proliferate, die, differentiate, and make tissue, giving rise to organs that have functional morphology. Using vertebrate appendages (limbs/fins) and reproductive organs as our model systems, we investigate the developmental mechanisms that are responsible for organ morphogenesis.
Species-specific organ morphology (e.g., the number of digits in tetrapod limbs) is established by modification of the genetic program, and the resultant developmental mechanism, during evolution. To better understand the developmental aspects of the evolution of morphology, we use a variety of vertebrate embryos (e.g., zebrafish, Xenopus, newt, gecko, mouse, chicken, quail, and penguin) to investigate how animals modify the developmental mechanism for morphological traits.