During development, individual cell shape changes and movements collectively sculpt tissues into organs with precise forms and functions in a process called tissue morphogenesis. Tissue morphogenesis requires that forces are generated at the molecular, cellular, and tissue levels. However, the molecular mechanisms that generate forces are not known for many of the cell shape changes and movements that underlie morphogenesis. Furthermore, how cell shape changes and cellular forces are coordinated across a tissue to achieve morphogenesis is an important unanswered question in biology.
In the Martin lab, we are interested in how forces are generated and transmitted across multiple length scales during embryonic development. We study these questions using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, where cell shape changes and cytoskeletal dynamics can be readily imaged by confocal microscopy and quantified using computational approaches. This quantitative live imaging can be combined with genetic (mutants, RNAi), cell biological (drug injections), biophysical (laser cutting), and biochemical (complex purification, reconstitution) approaches to functionally dissect cell shape change in the embryo. We encourage students and postdocs with either experimental or computational backgrounds to inquire about our lab.