Gastrulation is a highly conserved morphogenetic process in the development of most metazoan organisms, leading to the formation of distinct germ layers and the establishment of an embryonic body axis. Our lab uses zebrafish embryos as a model system to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying cell and tissue movements during gastrulation. Zebrafish is an ideal model organism to study gastrulation movements as embryos develop ex-utero and are easily accessible for both experimental and genetic manipulations. To analyze gastrulation movements, we are using a multi-disciplinary approach employing a combination of genetic, cell biological, biochemical and biophysical techniques. Utilizing these different experimental tools, we have begun unravelling key molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying germ layer formation and body axis elongation. Specifically, we are addressing the role of cell adhesion and actomyosin contractility in germ layer progenitor cell migration, segregation, polarization and epithelial formation. Currently, we are addressing three main questions:
 

  1. How is cell adhesion controlling germ layer progenitor cell segregation and germ layer formation?

  2. How is actomyosin contractility controlling epithelial formation and morphogenesis during gastrulation?

  3. What controls germ layer progenitor cell polarization and migration during gastrulation?