Research Opportunity: Regulation of Cell Migration in Zebrafish Embryos

Con­tact Name: Merrill Hille

Con­tact Email: mbhille[at]

Depart­ment: Biology


The movement of cells in embryos is mediated by actin structures stimulated by cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. Subsequently migration or cell polarization is
mediated by, for example, interaction of cadherins with p120ctn and the Rho GTPases.  We are studying molecules that define the pathways of cell migration and tissue migration in zebrafish embryos.

We are currently studying how phosphorylation of p120 catenin regulates whether it binds to cadherins and stimulates adhesion of cells or activators of the Rho GTPases Rac and Cdc42. These activities regulate the migration of presomitic mesoderm to form the somite muscles on the dorsal side of vertebrates.

Undergraduates in my lab are making cDNA mutants of p120 catenin by molecular biology techniques.  The cDNA clones are then used to make mRNAs that can be injected into zebrafish eggs to see their effects on early development.  p120 catenin is also being down regulated in the embryos by antisense morpholino RNA and their development potentially rescued by injection of the synthesized mRNAs.


Some basic understanding of cell biology. A strong interest in research. A schedule that allows you to spend about 2 days in the laboratory.  Some experiments are very long so a few hours each day is not sufficient.

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