Genes and Development
Winter 2016 quarter
The union of a sperm and egg initiates the process of development in which a single cell—the fertilized egg—eventually produces hundreds of different cell types that form distinctive tissues and organs. If the developmental program is encoded in the genome, how are the key regulatory genes expressed in the right place and at the right time, and what do these genes do? Genetics provides a powerful approach for studying complex biological pathways. By analyzing mutations that result in developmental defects, geneticists can not only learn how normal genes control cell growth and cell communication, but can also gain insights into the logic of how an organism establishes its major body axes and achieves spatial patterning.
This advanced program will provide an overview of the genetic strategies used to study questions in developmental biology. How do we make and isolate mutations that affect a complex process? How do we analyze the order and location of gene action in developmental pathways? How do we identify the gene that corresponds to a mutant phenotype and analyze its function at the molecular level? We will focus on several model organisms, including the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We will also consider several developmental mechanisms underlying evolutionary change.
A key aim of this program will be the analysis of experimental design and logic. Emphasis will be placed on reading and interpreting primary research papers, in both seminar discussions and written critiques. There will be a significant laboratory component applying contemporary genetic and molecular biological techniques to the study of development. We will also consider some of the philosophical and ethical implications of this scientific work by reading and discussing novels that explore these topics.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day