Front Page

Previous Story

Next Story

NIH Record vertical blue bar column separator

Bronner-Fraser To Give Director's Lecture, May 1 in Masur

Dr. Marianne Bronner-Fraser will deliver the NIH Director's Lecture on the "Formation and Evolution of the Neural Crest" at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1 in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10. Bronner-Fraser is the Albert Billings Ruddock professor in the division of biology at the California Institute of Technology. Her talk will include some of her laboratory's latest findings on neural crest formation as well as their attempts to analyze the evolution of the neural crest in the vertebrate embryo.

The neural crest is a band of cells that forms from the ectoderm, the embryo's outermost layer that will become the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and skin. Neural crest cells also migrate to form other cells in the body, including pigment cells, nerve cells and bone cells that form the facial skeleton. Neural crest cells are unique to vertebrates.

Dr. Marianne Bronner-Fraser

"This one group of cells gives rise to cells that are as different as the bone cells in your face and the nerve cells in your gut," said Bronner-Fraser. "How does a cell decide whether to become a bone cell or a nerve cell? And how does it know where to go? Or for that matter, how does an ectoderm cell decide to become a neural crest cell? That's what our research is focused on now." Using chicken embryos, she and her colleagues have identified some of the molecules involved in creating the neural crest. How these molecules communicate with one another to initiate the process is part of their research.

Beyond studying its development, she and her colleagues are trying to answer the larger question of how the neural crest evolved. They hope to shed light on this topic by looking at two snakelike, aquatic creatures: the lamprey (which has neural crest cells and is a vertebrate) and the amphioxus (which does not have neural crest cells and is not a vertebrate). Their goal is to determine the genetic differences that resulted in one species developing a neural crest but not the other.

Bronner-Fraser holds several NIH grants — from NIDCR, NICHD and NINDS — focused on developmental biology. In 2001, she also received an NIH grant to organize the Gordon research conference on developmental biology, the premier meeting for this field in the world.

She received a Sc.B. in biophysics from Brown University in 1975 and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University in 1979. Bronner-Fraser joined the faculty at the University of California, Irvine, in 1980 and was appointed full professor in 1990 as well as codirector of the Developmental Biology Center. In 1996, she moved to Caltech, where she became the Ruddock professor in 2000 and chair of the faculty in 2001.

Bronner-Fraser has taught courses in developmental biology, cell biology and developmental neurobiology both at UC, Irvine and Caltech. Together with her husband, Dr. Scott Fraser, she codirected the embryology course at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., from 1997-2001. The course is over 100 years old and teaches graduate students and postgraduate students current approaches to developmental biology.

Among her many honors and awards are excellence in teaching awards from both the Caltech biology undergraduate student advisory committee and the school's student association. She currently serves on the NASA life sciences panel for developmental biology and has served as a member of the council for the American Society for Cell Biology.

For information and reasonable accommodation, contact Hilda Madine at 594-5595.

Up to Top