During development, cells in an embryo face two major
tasks. First they must express distinct combinations of
genes appropriate for specific cell fates such as muscle and skin. Once
such patterns of gene expression are established, cells must change their
shape and position to match those cell fates. These transformations are
remarkable for their speed and precision, but also for their incredible
beauty. The associated cell-shape changes depend on local patterns of
gene activity, but how such patterns are converted into the physical
properties controlling shape and motility is a major unanswered question
in biology. In my talk I will describe my lab.s attempts to address these
questions using the Drosophila embryo as a model system. Our findings
open up a new perspective on the relationship between cells and
Eric Wieschaus is the Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology
at Princeton University, and was educated at Notre Dame and Yale.
Along the way he did research in Basel, Zurich and Heidelberg,
before arriving in Princeton in 1981. Famed for his work on
Drosophila, his first encounter with this species was preparing fly
food in Harvey Bender.s lab at Notre Dame. He shared the 1995
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work revealing the
genetic control of embryonic development.
As a boy in Alabama, he spent much of his time painting and
drawing, and he dreamed of becoming an artist. His visual approach
to understanding embryonic development may have, he says, partly
assuaged his teenage dreams.
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