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C. elegans muscle development and organogenesis

We are part of the Laboratory for Molecular Biology in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. We study the development of the pharynx in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.  The pharynx is a prominent neuromuscular organ located at the anterior end of the C. elegans digestive tract.  It is comprised of several very different cell types including muscles, neurons, epithelial cells, secretory glands, and specialized structural cells called marginal cells. Our lab studies how the pharynx is formed during C. elegans development.  Questions we are interested in include: 
  • How is pharyngeal development specified during embryogenesis? 
  • What mechanisms control differentiation of cells in the pharynx, particularly the pharyngeal muscles? 
  • How is differentiation of the various pharyngeal cell types coordinated so they can form a functional organ? 
  • Are the mechanisms controlling nematode pharyngeal development conserved in other species, including ourselves?