Networks of regulatory genes control the differential expression of regulatory and structural genes and by that initiate and control the development of the body plan. Evolutionary changes of the functional organization of developmental gene regulatory networks are therefore the key molecular mechanism underlying evolutionary change of animal morphology. However, the relation between gene regulatory networks and the developmental tasks they execute is not always apparent: How do gene regulatory networks control complex developmental processes? How do changes in the regulatory circuitry translate into morphological changes and how do they lead to evolutionary innovations in the body plan? These questions lay at the most fundamental level of our understanding of developmental processes and their evolution. I address these questions by studying regulatory circuits that control specification, differentiation and morphogenesis in the sea urchin embryo and comparing them to regulatory circuits that control similar processes in in other organisms. In my work I combine novel high-through put experimental techniques with mathematical modeling, to further our understanding of the dynamic molecular control of developmental processes and their evolution.
Read more on the Gene Regulation in Development and Evolution laboratory webpage.