My research program focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which cells choose a particular cell fate and how those cell fates are realized. To understand how cells within the mesoderm make these choices, we established an experimental system in Drosophila melanogaster to study the genetic and molecular events regulating embryonic fat-cell development. We have described the ontogeny of the fat body or adipose tissue in D. melanogaster (Hoshizaki et al., 1994) and have identified genes important in fat-cell specification and fat-cell differentiation.
One gene, serpent (srp), is critical for the maintenance and formation of precursor fat cells. srp codes for a GATA-like transcription factor and is likely to function as a fat-cell determining gene. We have shown that progenitors to the lateral fat cells initiate fat-cell differentiation in srp mutants but later undergo programmed cell death (Sam et al., 1996). Furthermore, in mis-expression experiments srp is capable of inducing fat-cell formation (Hayes et al., 2001).
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