Our laboratory is interested in how black pigment cells, or melanocytes, develop and function. We utilize several approaches to better understand the biology of these specialized cells:
- Genetic/molecular biology approaches – we are characterizing several pigment mutants in an effort to find new genes critical for normal melanophore development and function (see Beirl et al., 2014 or Clancey et al., 2013 for current projects).
- Embryological approaches – we use injection and transplant techniques to understand the role of specific genes or tissues in embryonic pigmentation.
- Cell biological approaches – we conduct western blot and cell death assays to understand the function of novel identified pigment genes at the protein level.
- Pharmocological approaches/drug screens – we examine the effects of pigment synthesis and signaling protein modulators to characterize the interacting pathways that work with our proteins of interest during melanophore and silver pigment cell (iridophore) development.
- Iridophores! We are also interested in understanding the role of multiple signaling pathways during iridophore development and currently, the work for this project is completely done by undergraduate researchers.