I am broadly interested in the function of cell surface receptors and extracellular proteins in cell behaviours and how these can affect the development or maintenance of whole tissues. I have previously studied protein interactions in the context of muscle development in zebrafish and erythrocyte invasion by malarial parasites. Currently, I am studying the role of cell surface proteins in the development of the brain in zebrafish.
I studied the co-receptors JAM-B and JAM-C during my PhD at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and was able to define a specific role for the physical interaction between the proteins in the development of muscle. A key stage in the formation of muscle is the fusion of myocytes into multinucleated fibres. Disruption of the interaction between Jamb and Jamc in zebrafish embryos prevents myocyte fusion, resulting in mononucleated, but otherwise apparently normal muscle fibres. This finding identified the first essential receptor pair for fusion in vertebrates and suggested a mechanism for the co-ordinated formation of muscle fibres in the zebrafish larvae.
Presently, I am identifying novel protein interactions between cell surface proteins in the zebrafish habenula to try to understand how signalling through receptors may affect the establishment of asymmetry between the left and right regions of the diencephalon.