Yixian Zheng is Director of the Department of Embryology. Her lab has a long-standing interest in cell division. In recent years, their findings have broadened their research using animal models, to include the study of stem cells, genome organization, and lineage specification—how stem cells differentiate into their final cell forms. They use a wide range of tools, including genetics in different model organisms, cell culture, biochemistry, proteomics, and genomics.

Cell division is essential for all organisms to grow and live. During a specific time in a cell’s cycle the elongated apparatus consisting of string-like micro-tubules called the spindle is assembled to move the chromosomes into two new cells. Another structure near the cell’s nucleus, the centrosome, is important for creating the microtubules and for assembling the spindle. Researchers are trying to understand the regulation of the spindle assembly, the structure of the centrosome, and how it organizes the microtubules and participates in spindle assembly.

The scientists use the frog Xenopus for their research.  The centrosome consists of a pair of cylinder-shaped structures called centrioles, which are surrounded by a material called pericentriolar material (PCM). Microtubules arise from this PCM. The Zheng scientists discovered a ring complex containing an essential protein component of microtubules called γ -tubulin. They found that the ring complex, named γ TuRC, is essential for centrosomes to form microtubules. They also uncovered an important signaling pathway controlled by a protein made in the nucleolus called GTPase Ran that regulates multiple aspects of cell division.

To study genome organization in development and aging, they use various tools to study how genomes obtain their organization in stem cells and during development. To understand the influence of the process of the cell beginning to shape, called cell morphogenesis, on the eventual type of cell it turns into, the researchers use a technique called pre-implantation mouse embryos. The development of a pre-implanted embryo allows them to discern the first type of cell differentiation, or lineage specification, in a small number of initially similar cells independent of any influence from other tissues. By using live-imaging and computational modeling and tracking, they uncovered unique cellular behaviors that are associated with lineage specification during pre-implantation development, key to analyzing how various physical and chemical changes in the developing cell influence which genes are turned on.

Zheng was a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator from 2000 to 2012. She studied biology as an undergraduate in China before moving to Ohio State University where she received a PhD in 1992. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco from 1992 to 1996, when she moved to Carnegie as a staff scientist and became Acting Director of the department in early 2016.  For more see the Zheng lab

Explore Carnegie Science

An artist's conception courtesy of HOK.
October 3, 2022

Pasadena, CA—The state of California designated $20 million in its 2023 budget to help fund a new state-of-the-art Carnegie research facility in Pasadena where scientists will cross disciplinary boundaries to tackle the greatest climate challenges facing humanity today.  

Representing a proactive investment in the fight against climate change, the 135,000-square-foot structure is designed to house 200 new and relocated staff who will comprise Carnegie’s newly launched Division of Biosphere Sciences and Engineering. There, a diverse array of experts will draw on Carnegie’s long-standing expertise in exploring the natural world across scales to probe the

Stephanie Hampton
August 12, 2022

Washington, DC— Aquatic ecologist Stephanie Hampton joined Carnegie as Deputy Director of Carnegie’s newly launched Division of Biosphere Sciences and Engineering at the end of July. She arrived from the National Science Foundation, where she was the director of the Division of Environmental Biology. She was also a professor and the former director of an interdisciplinary environmental research center at Washington State University.

“Stephanie’s experience leading the primary funder of basic ecological and evolutionary research in the U.S. has given her a 10-thousand-foot view of the field, which will help us as we implement a new, cross-disciplinary vision

Watercolor illustration of Drosophila, courtesy Carnegie Institution for Science
June 15, 2022

Baltimore, MD— Recent work from Carnegie’s Chenhui Wang and Allan Spradling reveals a surprising capability of renal stem cells in fruit flies—remodeling. Their work, which could eventually guide kidney stone treatments, was published by Science Advances.

Stem cells are the raw materials from which our bodies are formed.

The ultimate utility player, embryonic stem cells are capable of differentiating into any cell type to construct any organ or tissue in the body. Adult stem cells’ abilities are not quite so unlimited. They exist within a specific tissue—such as the skin or the intestinal lining—and are responsible for renewing it

Artist's conception by Navid Marvi
February 9, 2022

Baltimore, MD— The gut microbiome is an ecosystem of hundreds to thousands of microbial species living within the human body. These populations affect our health, fertility, and even our longevity. But how do they get there in the first place?

New collaborative work led by Carnegie’s William Ludington reveals crucial details about how the bacterial communities that comprise each of our individual gut microbiomes are acquired. These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have major implications for treatments such as fecal transplants and probiotic administration.

“There is a huge amount of variation in microbiome

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The Zheng lab studies cell division including the study of stem cells, genome organization, and lineage specification. They study the mechanism of genome organization in development, homeostasis—metabolic balance-- and aging; and the influence of cell morphogenesis, or cell shape and steructure,  on cell fate decisions. They use a wide range of tools and systems, including genetics in model organisms, cell culture, biochemistry, proteomics, and genomics.

 

The Spradling laboratory studies the biology of reproduction. By unknown means eggs reset the normally irreversible processes of differentiation and aging. The fruit fly Drosophila provides a favorable multicellular system for molecular genetic studies. The lab focuses on several aspects of egg development, called oogenesis, which promises to provide insight into the rejuvenation of the nucleus and surrounding cytoplasm. By studying ovarian stem cells, they are learning how cells maintain an undifferentiated state and how cell production is regulated by microenvironments known as niches. They are  also re-investigating the role of steroid and prostaglandin hormones in controlling

The Gall laboratory studies all aspects of the cell nucleus, particularly the structure of chromosomes, the transcription and processing of RNA, and the role of bodies inside the cell nucleus, especially the Cajal body (CB) and the histone locus body (HLB).

Much of the work makes use of the giant oocyte of amphibians and the equally giant nucleus or germinal vesicle (GV) found in it. He is particularly  interested in how the structure of the nucleus is related to the synthesis and processing of RNA—specifically, what changes occur in the chromosomes and other nuclear components when RNA is synthesized, processed, and transported to the cytoplasm.

In mammals, most lipids, such as fatty acids and cholesterol, are absorbed into the body via the small intestine. The complexity of the cells and fluids that inhabit this organ make it very difficult to study in a laboratory setting. The goal of the Farber lab is to better understand the cell and molecular biology of lipids within digestive organs by exploiting the many unique attributes of the clear zebrafish larva  to visualize lipid uptake and processing in real time.  Given their utmost necessity for proper cellular function, it is not surprising that defects in lipid metabolism underlie a number of human diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

Ana Bonaca is Staff Member at Carnegie Observatories. Her specialty is stellar dynamics and her research aims to uncover the structure and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially the dark matter halo that surrounds it. In her research, she uses space- and ground-based telescopes to measure the motions of stars, and constructs numerical experiments to discover how dark matter affected them.

She arrived in September 2021 from Harvard University where she held a prestigious Institute for Theory and Computation Fellowship. 

Bonaca studies how the uneven pull of our galaxy’s gravity affects objects called globular clusters—spheres made up of a million

Peter Gao's research interests include planetary atmospheres; exoplanet characterization; planet formation and evolution; atmosphere-surface-interior interactions; astrobiology; habitability; biosignatures; numerical modeling.

His arrival in September 2021 continued Carnegie's longstanding tradition excellence in exoplanet discovery and research, which is crucial as the field prepares for an onslaught of new data about exoplanetary atmospheres when the next generation of telescopes come online.

Gao has been a part of several exploratory teams that investigated sulfuric acid clouds on Venus, methane on Mars, and the atmospheric hazes of Pluto. He also

Anne Pommier's research is dedicated to understanding how terrestrial planets work, especially the role of silicate and metallic melts in planetary interiors, from the scale of volcanic magma reservoirs to core-scale and planetary-scale processes.

She joined Carnegie in July 2021 from U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she investigated the evolution and structure of planetary interiors, including our own Earth and its Moon, as well as Mars, Mercury, and the moon Ganymede.

Pommier’s experimental petrology and mineral physics work are an excellent addition to Carnegie’s longstanding leadership in lab-based mimicry of the

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation