The Big Picture on Embryonic Development

In Rebecca Lyczak’s lab, the big picture is understanding cell divisions and embryonic development and—more specifically—the proper regulation of the cell cycle in this process.

embryo The National Institutes of Health is funding work in Lyczak’s lab so that she can build on research that has uncovered a specific protein’s role in cell division, particularly as it relates to fertility.

Lyczak initially discovered the PAM-1 protein, its role in cell division, and what happens during embryo development. “We’re always studying mutations in pam-1 [in the model organism C. elegans]. If the worms have a mutation in pam-1, then embryonic cells won’t divide properly, and the embryos are going to die,” Lyczak said.

But recently, she identified “suppressor” genes that, when mutated, counteract this pam-1 mutation. Why is it significant? It’s the first direct link between a known component of the cell cycle machinery and pam-1—understanding the role of these proteins in regulation of the cell cycle could impact our understanding of infertility and early development.