Dr. Richard R. Behringer
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Genetics
Our research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that lead to the formation of a mammalian embryo, the genesis of tissues and organs during development, and the pathological consequences of developmental defects. In addition, we study the genetic mechanisms that result in organ morphology and physiology differences that have evolved between species. We utilize genetic, embryological and comparative approaches.
The mammalian reproductive organs are essential for individuals to generate progeny and are a common source of disease. We are interested in defining the factors that cause the male and female phenotypes, including gonad and reproductive tract differentiation during embryogenesis and after birth. We are currently defining gene regulatory networks for reproductive organ development, using "-omics" profiling of developing reproductive organ tissues and generation of mutations in a variety of vertebrate species.
We are also investigating developmental processes in diverse mammalian systems, including marsupials and chiropterans (bats). Mammalian embryogenesis and reproduction are very diverse between species, comparisons provide novel insights for reproduction, embryonic development and organogenesis. We collaborate with Marilyn Renfree (University of Melbourne) using the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) model to study sexual differentiation and limb development. Bats also offer a unique system to study the genetic mechanisms that diversify organogenesis. We have collaborated with John Rasweiler to establish the molecular embryology of the fruit bat, Carollia perspicillata. Our wallaby and bat studies are supported by field collections on Kangaroo Island, Australia and the island of Trinidad, respectively. In addition, we have a frozen archive of fibroblasts from >250 mammalian species previously collected by Drs. Tao-Chiuh (T.C.) Hsu and Sen Pathak. This "frozen zoo" serves as a rich source of genetic and cellular information.