Cell and Developmental Biology Programs

About the Cell and Developmental Biology Program

Research in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology explores the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of cellular function and development. Research in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology is in several exciting areas:

  • Assembly and Dynamics of Myofibrils —The aim is to understand how muscle proteins become organized into interacting subunits that form the contractile myofibrils of skeletal and cardiac muscle. The ability to follow this process in living cells expressing fluorescently tagged molecules presents the opportunity to analyze the dynamics and binding interactions of wild type and mutant proteins in situ. The emphasis is on using the latest imaging techniques with molecular biology methods to test hypotheses about the formation of myofibrils and to determine how mutated sarcomeric proteins produce changes in myofibrillar properties that lead to cardiac and skeletal muscle disease.
  • Genetics and cell biology of organ morphogenesis —includes the study of organogenesis during embryo development, mechanisms of establishing left-right asymmetry and genetic basis of congenital heart defects.
  • Genetics of ciliary motility &mdash focus is on identification of genes important for the assembly and motility of cilia, to reveal mechanisms of cargo recognition for transport of ciliary precursors during assembly, the role of chaperones in pre-assembly of dynein motors, and the function of the central pair complex in dynein regulation.
  • Mammalian neural development and regeneration —includes research on the ability of partially differentiated stem cells (oligodendrogial precursor cells; OPCs) to remyelinate damaged axons after spinal cord injury (SCI); the role of Reelin production by OPCs on oligodendroglial development and function; the role of extracellular matrix molecules (chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans) in inhibiting axonal regeneration and the migration and differentiation of OPCs in vitro and after spinal injury, and the ability of chondroitinase to overcome this inhibition enhancing regeneration and remyelination; the effect of neurotrophic/growth factors to protect axotomized neurons and to stimulate axonal regeneration and the migration of OPCs after spinal cord injury; the intrinsic cellular response of propriospinal neurons to axotomy and factors that promote an intracellular growth response, apoptosis, or neuronal atrophy; overcoming the axonopathy seen in axons that continue to span spinal injury that results from secondary intra-axonal injury processes caused by initial axonal membrane damage at the time of spinal contusion injury.
  • Mechanisms of actin assembly during endocytosis —includes work on the mechanism of induction of actin assembly by the Arp2/3 complex activators and analysis of the role of molecular motor protein myosin-1. This work uses biochemical, genetic and microscopic approaches in model organism fission yeast S. pombe.
  • Role of class I myosins in kidney functions—includes analysis of the roles of myosin motors in regulation of renal filtration, epithelial cell migration and adhesion, and membrane trafficking using mouse and cell culture models.
  • Role of cell adhesion in regulating the cytoskeleton and cell motility —includes work on regulation of the leukocyte actin cytoskeleton by integrin activation, regulation of fibroblast adhesion to the extracellular matrix through the formation of focal adhesion complexes, and regulation of flagellar motility in response to changes in intracellular calcium ion signaling.
  • Role of Formins in animals —includes biochemical characterization of formin/cytoskeleton interactions, and determination of cell- and tissue-specific functions for different formin isoforms using C. elegans as a genetic model system.
Other projects include: studies of embryonic blood vessel development and of signaling cascades that control cellular proliferation and differentiation.

Students and faculty use a variety of research methods including sophisticated light microscopy (automated motility tracking, laser confocal microscopy, high-resolution dark-field imaging, real-time fluorescence microscopy, high-sensitivity digital cameras and image processing), electron microscopy, tissue culture, stereotactic surgery, flow cytometry and a complete range of molecular and biochemical techniques.

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
Joseph W. Sanger, PhD, Chair
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Location: 1135 Weiskotten Hall
766 Irving Ave., Syracuse, NY 13210
Phone: (315) 464-5120 | Fax: (315) 464-8535
This program awards a PhD degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology.

Lisi Krainer

Being responsible for my own research project has been a great incentive to step out of my scientific comfort zone and explore areas less familiar to me such as Molecular Biology. These bacteria were transformed to produce a plasmid containing a synthetic piece of double stranded DNA I designed."

— Lisi Krainer