PhD, The Johns Hopkins University
Postdoctoral, Indiana University
Office: 3556 Thomas Hall
Website: Visit our Lab Home Page
Research Areas: Molecular / Cell / Development
My research objective is to understand the genetic control of body patterning in animals. A conserved group of genes encoding homeodomain-class transcription factors (the hox genes) is responsible for establishing the anterior-posterior body pattern of most if not all animals. The encoded proteins specify regional identity by selectively activating necessary battery of “target” genes to establish segment-specific cell fates. However, since the proteins encoded by each hox gene have similar DNA recognition and binding properties, it is not clear how these proteins lead to very specific target gene activation and developmental fates. Clearly, the Hox proteins do not function alone but in concert with other factors.
Recently, my lab described a genetic link between genes functioning in proximal-distal appendage developmental pathway and the Hox specification of anterior-posterior patterning. We are using morphogenesis mainly of the fruit fly Drosophila, but we also use the beetle Tribolium, the nematode C. elegans, and the zebrafish Danio rerio to study this process. Our hypothesis is that the Hox proteins modify output from the proximal-distal genetic network to produce specific and distinct segment morphologies. In this view, it is the Hox proteins that are the cofactors. Our current research focuses on testing this model and extending the understanding of the Hox/proximal-distal network.
Sanders, LR, Patel, M, and Mahaffey JW. (2008). The Drosophila gap gene giant has an anterior segment identity function mediated through disconnected and teashirt. Genetics. 179: 441–453.
Patel M, Farzana L, Robertson LK, Hutchinson J, Grubbs N, Shepherd MN, Mahaffey JW. (2007). The appendage role of insect disco genes and possible implications on the evolution of the maggot larval form. Dev Biol 309: 59–69.
Mahaffey JW. (2005). Assisting Hox proteins in controlling body form: are there new lessons from flies (and mammals)? Curr Opin Genet Dev 15: 422–429.
Robertson, L.K., Bowling, D.B., Mahaffey, J.P., Imiolczyk, B. and Mahaffey, J.W. (2004). An interactive network of zinc-finger proteins, contributes to regionalization of the Drosophila;embryo and establishes domains of HOM-C protein function. Development 131: 2781–2789.
Mahaffey JW, Griswold CM, and Cao Q-M. (2001). The Drosophila genes disconnected and disco-related are redundant with respect to larval head development and accumulation of mRNAs from Deformed target genes. Genetics. 157: 225–236.