Pourquié lab identifies genes involved in formation of vertebral precursors

November 13, 2006

Kansas City, Mo. (Nov. 10, 2006) -- Mary Lee Dequeant, Ph.D., a Predoctoral Researcher at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and Olivier Pourquié, Ph.D., Stowers Institute Investigator and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, are the first and last authors, respectively, on a paper that identifies a network of cyclic genes that shed light on the molecular basis of spine formation in the embryo.

The paper was published on Science Express, the advanced publication Web site of Science Magazine on Nov. 9, 2006.

Dr. Pourquié's lab has long studied the formation of the spine and the role of an internal mechanism -- the clock oscillator -- that regulates the formation somites, the precursors of vertebrae. In their most recent findings, the team used the mouse model to demonstrate how the clock drives the periodic expression of a large network of cyclic genes involved in cell signaling. Mutually exclusive activation of the Notch/FGF and Wnt pathways during each cycle suggests that coordinated regulation of these three pathways underlies the clock oscillator.

"Our findings shed light on a fundamental aspect of the architecture of the spine by demonstrating the implication of a large network of genes involved in controlling the periodicity of the production of vertebral precursors in the embryo," said Dr. Pourquié.

"I'm excited about this work because mutation of the genes involved in the segmentation clock oscillator can cause crippling diseases in humans, such as congenital scoliosis," said Dr. Dequeant. "Our work identified many novel genes associated to the oscillator whose mutation could lead to such disease."
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Additional contributing authors from the Stowers Institute include Earl Glynn, Scientific Programmer; Karin Gaudenz, Research Specialist I; Matthias Wahl, Postdoctoral Research Associate; Jie Chen, Visiting Scientist; and Arcady Mushegian, Director of Bioinformatics Center.

Dr. Pourquié holds an appointment as an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at The University of Kansas School of Medicine

About the Stowers Institute
Housed in a 600,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility on a 10-acre campus in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research conducts basic research on fundamental processes of cellular life. Through its commitment to collaborative research and the use of cutting-edge technology, the Institute seeks more effective means of preventing and curing disease. The Institute was founded by Jim and Virginia Stowers, two cancer survivors who have created combined endowments of $2 billion in support of basic research of the highest quality.

Stowers Institute for Medical Research

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