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Susan Spencer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Courses Taught

Cell Structure and Function, Signal Transduction, Developmental Biology


Ph.D., Washington University 

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? Spencer's 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, she has 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. Spencer's lab's goal is to understand how the activity of these genes leads to patterning of photoreceptors in the eye.

Labs and Facilities

Lab webpage:

Publications and Media Placements

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 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).