Our lab studies the molecular and genetic basis of evolutionary changes in development using several different model systems. I am particularly interested in the evolution of development. Several different animals are used in my research. The teleost Astyanax mexicanus is a single species with eyed surface dwelling and blind cave dwelling forms. I want to understand the developmental and evolutionary mechanisms responsible for phenotypic changes in Astyanax cavefish. I am also interested in the ancestry of the neural crest and regeneration in chordates. For this research I use sea squirts (ascidians), especially Ciona intestinalis, which has a completely sequenced genome.
Using the blind and de-pigmented cavefish, Astyanax mexicanus, we study the mechanisms of eye degeneration, pigment loss, and the evolution of behavior. The cavefish model has many favorable attributes for these studies, including the existence of a surface dwelling conspecific, which has eyes and pigmentation, but differs substantially from cavefish in its behavioral repertoire, the availability of laboratory culture, molecular, embryonic, and genetic analysis.
Using ascidians (tunicates or sea squirts), which are thought to be the sister group of vertebrates in the Phylum Chordata, we study the origin and evolution of the chordate neural crest and the molecular and cellular basis for their powerful tissue regeneration capacities, which are unique among the chordates. These studies include work on the model ascidian Ciona intestinalis which has a sequenced genome and a rich of history of research in developmental biology.
When not working in the Bell Center at the MBL, we are either visiting the Station Biologique, Roscoff, France, or in our lab at the University of Maryland (Jeffery Lab). We often carry out cavefish field studies in the Sierra Madre Orientale, Mexico, as well. For a list of our publications, click here.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our research projects.
William R. Jeffery
MBL Address: Rowe 212