Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, MS, PhD

Head of the Department of Developmental Biology

Washington University in St. Louis (WU)

We are investigating the cellular and molecular genetic mechanisms underlying vertebrate gastrulation, a crucial period of embryogenesis during which the germ layers are formed and then shaped into the vertebrate body plan with organ rudiments. Gastrulation entails a combination of inductive events that specify cell identities with massive cell movements and rearrangements that fashion the body plan. The complex and dynamic nature of gastrulation makes it a challenging but intellectually fascinating object of study. In humans, 25-50% of pregnancies end in early miscarriages of largely unknown genetic origin. Moreover, the molecular regulation of tumor growth and metastasis show striking parallels to those underlying gastrulation movements, underscoring the practical significance of gastrulation research.
We are addressing the mechanisms of gastrulation in the zebrafish (Danio rerio) and human embryonic stem cells.