Cristy Walcher

Molecular genetics of signal transduction in eukaryotic cells

Throughout development, signaling transduction plays an important role in determining cell fate and establishing a developmental program so that a single cell can develop into a multicellular organism. Signal transduction uses signaling pathways, which are circuits that convey messages between cells and their environment. The response to external signals is context dependent, meaning the output depends not only upon the cell type, in which signals are transduced, but also upon the stage of development of the organism, other interacting signaling molecules, or outside environmental signals.

I use genetic model organisms to study signal transduction networks. Knowledge gained from models can ultimately help us to understand signaling networks in more complex organisms. Arabidopsis and tomato are excellent models to study environmental effects on development and reproduction. Among others, important regulators of development are light and hormones. I currently concentrate on the interaction between light perception and the cross-regulation between hormones, as they implement the perceived signals and translate them into developmental patterning of the organism. Techniques used to study these questions could include microarray analysis, quantitative real time PCR, or other molecular tools.

If you are interested in genetics, molecular biology, or cell biology and would like to learn more about specific projects in my lab, or how you could fit in with a project over the summer, please contact me. I have several collaborative projects with other Puget Sound faculty and I am looking forward to working with undergraduate researchers this summer.