The University of Iowa
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The Department of Biology

Faculty Information

Douglas Houston

Douglas Houston

Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Miami 1999
257 BB
(319) 335-1316
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Localized molecules and maternal signalling pathways in vertebrate development

In many vertebrate eggs, fertilization initiates cortical/cytoplasmic rearrangements (cortical rotation), resulting in the transport of critical determinants to the future dorsal side. In the frog Xenopus, this event is mediated by microtubules and causes the localized activation of the Wnt signaling pathway dorsally. Wnts are key growth factors involved in many aspects of development and are often misregulated in cancers and other diseases. Similar cytoplasmic localizations and Wnt activation occur in many chordate embryos, suggesting a deeply conserved mechanism for patterning early embryos. Our lab is currently pursuing several main avenues of investigation:  (1) identifying and characterizing the roles of asymmetrically-localized mRNAs and proteins in early dorsal axis formation, (2) elucidating mechanisms of microtubule assembly and orientation during cortical rotation and (3) determining how Wnt signaling is initiated and regulated on the dorsal side. We are addressing these questions using reverse-genetic antisense approaches in the amphibian Xenopus laevis. Additionally, we are  beginning to explore bona fide genetic manipulation of these processes in both X. laevis as well as in the more genetically-tractable diploid frog species, Xenopus tropicalis

Keywords: developmental biology, germ cells, germ layer, localized RNAs, Wnt, axis formation, Xenopus

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Selected Publications

Hulstrand AM, Houston DW. (2013). Regulation of neurogenesis by Fgf8a requires Cdc42 signaling and a novel Cdc42 effector protein. Developmental Biology 382, 385-99.

Houston, DW (2013). Cell polarity and RNA localization in vertebrate oocytes. International Review of Cell and Molecular Biology (formerly International Review of Cytology) 306: 127-85.

Schneider, P.S. and Houston, D.W. (2012). Differential role of Axin RGS domain function in Wnt signaling during anteroposterior patterning and maternal axis formation. PLoS ONE., in press

Houston, D.W. (2012). Cortical rotation and messenger RNA localization in Xenopus axis formation. WIREs Dev Biol 2012. doi: 10.1002/wdev.29

Cuykendall, T.N. and Houston, D.W. (2010). Identification of novel germ plasm-associated transcripts by microarray analysis of the Xenopus vegetal cortex. Dev Dyn 239, 1838–1848.

Cuykendall, T.N. and Houston, D.W. (2009). Vegetally localized Xenopus Trim36 regulates cortical rotation and dorsal axis formation. Development 136, 3057-3065. Recommended by Faculty of 1000 (Faculty of 1000 Biology: evaluations for Cuykendall TN & Houston DW Development 2009 Sep 136 (18) :3057-65

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