Our Science – Yamaguchi Website
Terry P. Yamaguchi, Ph.D.
The Role of Wnts in Vertebrate Development and Cancer
Our laboratory is interested in understanding how intercellular signals control embryonic development. Wnts are powerful secreted signaling molecules that control the growth, differentiation and movement of embryonic and adult cells. Wnts exert their effects on cellular behavior, at least in part, by stimulating biochemical pathways that control gene expression. Genetic mutations in components of the Wnt signaling pathway can lead to unrestrained signaling and cancer. It has become increasingly clear that Wnts can regulate the growth and differentiation of embryonic and adult stem cells, and that sustained Wnt signaling can promote tumorigenesis by maintaining adult stem cells.
We are currently focused on identifying and understanding the function of the target genes of Wnt signaling during early embryonic development. We are taking genetic and genome-wide approaches to transcriptionally profile embryos lacking Wnt gene function. We are particularly interested in addressing how stem cell potency and lineage determination are regulated by Wnt signals. Our studies have led to the identification of many new genes that are implicated in the regulation of epiblast pluripotency and the formation of multipotent mesoderm progenitors. Remarkably, a screen of adult intestinal stem cells for expression of our embryonic Wnt target genes revealed several genes whose expression was common to these disparate stem cell populations. Many of these genes were also highly expressed in intestinal tumors caused by deregulated Wnt signaling. Future studies will focus on the roles that specific Wnt target transcription factors play in the transduction of the Wnt signals that regulate embryo stem cell development and intestinal tumorigenesis.
This page was last updated on 9/4/2013.