Department of Biology
Dr. Susan Spencer
Associate Professor - Ph.D. in Neurosciences, Washington University
Phone: (314) 977-4091 (office) (314) 977-3650 (lab)
Fax: (314) 977-3658
Mail: Department of Biology, St. Louis University, 3507 Laclede Ave. St. Louis, MO 63103-2010
Courses offered: Cell Structure and Function, Signal Transduction, Developmental Biology.
Research interests: One of the central questions in developmental biology is what triggers cells to adopt specific fates. For instance, what makes one cell differentiate as a neuron, while surrounding cells become glia or support cells? My laboratory is interested in understanding the genes and mechanisms that direct cells to adopt a neuronal fate. Using the fruitfly eye as a model system, we have identified several genes that are required for normal specification and patterning of photoreceptor neurons in the developing retina. These genes appear to regulate signaling of the Notch and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptors, two signaling pathways whose activation must be tightly controlled in developing systems. Our goal is to understand how the activity of these genes leads to patterning of photoreceptors in the eye.
Research Opportunities: I encourage students to come talk to me about current research opportunities. Several projects are available that involve molecular, biochemical, and genetic approaches to studying eye development. Interested students can learn a variety of techniques including DNA manipulation (cloning), microdissection, microscopy, and Drosophila (fruitfly) genetics.
Spencer SA and Cagan RL: Echinoid is essential for regulation of Egfr signaling and R8 formation during Drosophila eye development. Development: 130:3725-33 (2003).
Powell PA, Wesley C, Spencer SA, and Cagan RL: Scabrous complexes with Notch to mediate boundary formation. Nature: 409:626-30 (2001).
Spencer SA, Brachmann, CB, and Cagan, RL: Drosophila Retinal Patterning. In Encyclopedia of Life Sciences at www.els.net. McMillan Publishers Ltd., England (2000).
Spencer SA, Powell PA, Miller DT, Cagan RL: Regulation of EGF receptor signaling establishes pattern across the developing Drosophila retina. Development 125: 4777-90 (1998).