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Faculty Profile

Arne C. LekvenArne C. Lekven

Associate Professor
Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Office: Science & Research 2, 421G
Contact: alekven@uh.edu - (713) 743-7618

Education: Ph.D., UCLA

Website

During embryonic development, cells become committed to different developmental lineages through a poorly understood process called patterning. We are interested in two developmental patterning events that are dependent upon Wnt signaling, a key signaling pathway that plays roles in processes as diverse as development, stem cell maintenance, and cancer. The two patterning events of our focus are anterior-posterior regionalization of the brain and mesoderm patterning during axis formation. To study these events, we exploit the zebrafish model organism because of its amenability to molecular genetic analysis and sophisticated imaging approaches.

The vertebrate brain arises from very simple embryonic beginnings: the neural plate. During early development, signaling pathways create subdivisions along the anteroposterior axis that become elaborated and further refined in time. A crucial regulator of brain patterning is the Midbrain Hindbrain Boundary (MHB), which itself forms in response to patterning signals during early development. Wnt signaling is required for MHB formation, and several Wnt ligands play roles in the process.  Work in the Lekven laboratory is directed at understanding 1) regulatory inputs into patterned gene expression in the MHB and 2) downstream mechanisms for how the Wnt pathway promotes midbrain specification and growth.

The mesodermal germ layer is responsible for establishing a global coordinate system that the embryo uses to allocate progenitor cells to different fates, such as forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, trunk muscle, tail muscle, kidney, blood, and more. Critical to this process is the gene wnt8a.  Signaling by Wnt8a ligands regulates dorsoventral mesoderm patterning and growth of the posterior mesoderm component.  Work in the Lekven laboratory is directed at understanding 1) regulatory inputs into wnt8a expression and activity and 2) downstream mechanisms for how Wnt8a promotes posterior body growth.

Research Scholar of the American Cancer Society