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WIREs Syst Biol Med
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Author Spotlight

Blanche Capel
Current Affiliation: Duke University, Department of Cell Biology
Research Area: Sex Determination, Testis and Ovary Development, and Germ Biology

"From the time of my post-doc, I have been very interested in the biology of vertebrate sex determination and the basic questions it raises about how patterning decisions are made during organ development. More recently we have begun to focus on using systems-biology approaches to better understand how this process occurs."

The Capel laboratory is interested in the biology of sex determination and patterning decisions made during organ development. Unlike most organs whose fate is pre-determined, the gonad arises as a bipotential primordium that can follow one of two developmental pathways. ‘Primary sex determination’ refers to the decision within the gonad to develop as a testis or ovary, and involves initial cell fate decisions coordinated with a dramatic reorganization of the tissue into testis or ovary morphology. In mammals, the fate of the gonad is controlled by a gene on the Y chromosome, Sry, which tips the balance of underlying signaling pathways. Currently the lab is using systems biology approaches to achieve a better understanding of the global transcriptional network that regulates this decision. Investigations are also underway to determine whether this network is conserved in other vertebrates such as red eared slider turtles, where sex determination is regulated by the temperature of egg incubation.

Other research in the lab is focused on the morphological reorganization of the cells in the gonad into a testis or ovary, for which the laboratory has pioneered live imaging. Other efforts are directed toward understanding how the intracellular program in testis germ cells, in combination with regulation from the niche within the gonad, lead to the transition of germ cells from a pluripotent state into pro-spermatogonia. This question is addressed through investigation of Dnd1Ter mouse mutants, in which germ cells do not successfully navigate this transition, but instead undergo a transformation event and give rise to germ cell tumors.

Articles by Blanche Capel

Sex and the circuitry: progress toward a systems‐level understanding of vertebrate sex determination
Focus Article
WIREs WIREs Systems Biology and Medicine
Published Online: May 17 2012
DOI: 10.1002/wsbm.1172
Abstract Full article on Wiley Online Library:   HTML | PDF
Testis formation in the fetal mouse: dynamic and complex de novo tubulogenesis
Advanced Review
WIREs WIREs Developmental Biology
Published Online: Apr 26 2012
DOI: 10.1002/wdev.62
Abstract Full article on Wiley Online Library:   HTML | PDF

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