AREA of RESEARCH: Dr Abbott's research interests include studies of the mechanisms of developmental toxicity with particular emphasis on complex, interactive signal transduction and receptor-mediated pathways. Pathways that I have investigated include the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and AhR nuclear translocator (ARNT) pathway, vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF) signaling pathway, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway of mitogen activated phosphor-kinase (MAPK) mediated signaling and the peroxisome proliferator activating receptor (PPAR) transcriptional regulation pathway. Signaling through these pathways is affected by toxicant exposures and linked with induction of birth defects as well as adverse effects on postnatal survival and growth. Current research focuses on developing a 3-D human mesenchymal stem cell and epithelial progenitor cell co-culture model to mimic embryonic fusion events required during development. The culture models recapitulate interactions required for morphogenetic fusion and will be used to evaluate perturbation in molecular initiating events or key events involved in fusion-related phenotypes (birth defects). The culture model will also be used to assess responses to chemical exposures in vitro and to simulate specific tissues undergoing fusion events at selected developmental stages.