Gerald H. Thomsen
Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Stony Brook University
United States of America
Gerald H. Thomsen joined as Professor of Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology,The Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
Research in my lab seeks to understand the basic principles of how embryos develop by working on molecular mechanisms that drive a fertilized egg to form the many diverse cell types found in an embryo, and organize these cells into tissues and organs. Our prime focus is on vertebrate development, and we use two species of frogs, Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis, to discover and test the mechanism of regulatory genes governing early development. Current pursuits in this context include mechanisms of growth factor signaling in the TGFß superfamily, the function of ubiquitin ligases in signaling and cell differentiation, and the function of transcription factors (e.g. T-box genes) or transcriptional adaptor proteins. We are also studying the mechanisms of embryonic development in the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, a member of the ancient animal phylum Cnidaria, to gain insight into the evolution of animal developmental mechanisms and the origins of growth factor signaling systems. Understanding the molecular basis of embryonic development is of basic importance, in and of itself, but this pursuit is also key to understanding mechanisms that underlie disease and birth defects in humans. Many of the regulatory mechanisms that govern embryonic development are similar if not identical to those that control the normal function of adult cells and tissues. Furthermore, many advances in biotechnology are fueled by new methods that stem from the study of embryonic development (e.g. the recent rise of RNAi through studies of C. elegans). Closer to our interests, the study of frog embryos (by many groups) has led to discovery and insight into the function of developmental regulators that have made their way into clinical testing, such as BMP, FGF and Wnt growth factors and their various inhibitors.