Our research is focused on understanding the signals that cells exchange in order to control cell proliferation and differentiation. We are using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism to understand these fundamental biological processes. In particular, the development of the hermaphrodite vulva serves us as a paradigm to study intercellular communication and cell fate determination. During vulval development, the coordinate action of three evolutionary conserved signal transduction pathways (the Wingless, Ras and Notch pathways) controls the differentiation of vulval cells that form the egg-laying organ.
Since the intercellular signaling pathways are conserved in all animals, the molecular mechanisms we are identifying in Caenorhabditis elegans exist also in more complex organisms including humans. We are therefore transferring the knowledge gained in our Caenorhabditis elegans studies to mammalian cell culture models.