Arthur E. Anderson Research/Training Professor of Molecular Biosciences, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; Program Leader for the Tumor Invasion, Metastasis and Angiogenesis Program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University
Dr. LaBonne's laboratory studies the cellular and molecular events underlying the formation, migration and differentiation of neural crest cells. These multipotent stem-cell-like precursor cells migrate extensively and give rise to an amazingly diverse set of derivatives in vertebrate embryos. Neural crest cells are important precursors of the peripheral nervous system, and also form a number of important non-neuronal derivatives including melanocytes, craniofacial bone and cartilage and smooth muscle. Defects in neural crest development underlie a wide variety of birth defects and cancers.
The LaBonne laboratory is interested in understanding the signals that underlie the induction and early development of the neural crest, and process by which these cells become migratory. They also seek to understand the mechanisms that control the cell fate decisions of neural crest cells. Most of their studies are carried out on Xenopus embryos using a combination of powerful techniques including protein mis-expression and depletion, explant culture, tissue grafting and biological imaging. They study the role a number of known signaling proteins play in these processes, including Wnt and BMP-family growth factors and the zinc-finger transcription factors Slug and Snail. They also use cDNA macroarray-based gene discovery methods in order to identify novel regulators of neural crest development. Using such methods, we have recently discovered that the proto-oncogene c-myc is a key upstream regulator of neural crest development, and they are working to better understand its role in this process.
Office: Pancoe 3411
Email: clabonne [at] northwestern [dot] edu