SDB Emerging Models Grant

The Society for Developmental Biology Emerging Models Grant was established in 2016 to fund projects aimed at developing techniques, approaches, community resources, collaborations, and new lines of research to study developmental mechanisms in non-traditional model systems.  The types of projects supported by SDB Emerging Models awards are those that would not be funded by a granting agency due to their preliminary nature.  The goal is to provide resources to promote investigations into new systems that will provide unique information that informs and extends our ideas about how developmental processes occur and are regulated.  Graduate student, postdoctoral fellow and faculty SDB members are all eligible.  Deadlines are December 1 and May 31.  (Please note, if two grants are awarded from the December 1 deadline, then we will not be taking applications for May 31. Therefore, we strongly advise you to submit your application by the December 1 deadline).

*Applications will not be accepted for the May 31, 2019 deadline.

2018 Recipients


William T. Gibson Postdoctoral Fellow, HHMI/California Institute of Technology
Advisor: Elliot Meyerowitz

Pioneering the organism C. prolifera as a model to study tissue differentiation in the absence of cellular boundaries

Traditional model organisms have been instrumental for understanding how multicellular tissues arise and undergo differentiation at the level of their constituent cells. We will study how Caulerpa prolifera – which is a single giant cell (up to a meter in linear dimension) that possesses the equivalents of roots, stems, and leaves – can differentiate itself into tissues and organs without subdividing those tissues into cells. Caulerpa uses none of the traditional developmental mechanisms familiar to most biologists, such as stem cells, traditional mitosis/proliferation, cell migration, or apoptosis. Our approach will combine genomics, transcriptomics, splicing analysis, epigenetics, and molecular genetics to test multiple hypotheses about how Caulerpa’s differentiation process occurs. We will also generate high-quality molecular tools and genomic datasets for the benefit of the entire developmental community.  Our over-arching goal is to develop Caulerpa as a model system to study growth, form, and the cytoskeleton without the added complications of cell-cell interactions.

Stephen Green
Postdoctoral Fellow, California Institute of Technology
Advisor: Marianne Bronner

The Brook lamprey Lethenteron appendix: A new model for studying vertebrate evolution
Lampreys are a group of basally-branching jawless vertebrate fishes that are crucial models of vertebrate evolution. The commonly studied Sea Lamprey Petromyzon marinus produces many eggs, but overall productivity is limited by the short duration of their natural spawning season. Another lamprey species, the American Brook Lamprey Lethenteron appendix has a broad geographic distribution in the US, is suitably sized for laboratory use, and has a breeding season in early spring that does not overlap with that of P. marinus. Preliminary work with L. appendix suggest it is possible to trigger spawning, potentially allowing artificial spawning periods at other times of the year. In this project, I will refine husbandry techniques, test embryonic microinjection, and construct a developmental transcriptome for L. appendix. This work will contribute to the continued development of lamprey model systems and might lead to significantly expanded availability of lamprey embryos.

John G. Hodge
Graduate Student, Oklahoma State University
Advisor: Andrew Doust

New tools to study environmental control of branching in the C4 model grass Setaria
Branching is a key determinant of life history in plant systems and serves as a central target in domesticated lineages, yet the response of gene regulatory pathways to environmental change is poorly understood.  The branching process involves the production of independent stem cell populations and their subsequent outgrowth or suppression into a dormant state.  We have developed a mapping population in the grass C4 model system Setaria, between the wild lineage S. viridis and the domesticate S. italica, where one group of segregants displays environmentally inducible branching phenotypes, while the others display non-branching or constitutive branching phenotypes, respectively.  This gives us the power to experimentally control bud dormancy release in order for us to investigate the effect of environmental variation on the gene regulatory network underlying branching in grasses.

Ashley Rasys
Graduate Student, University of Georgia
Advisor: Douglas Menke

Establishment of CRISPR/Cas genome-editing in the brown Anole lizard, Anolis sagrei
Anolis lizards have served as important models for studies of evolution, behavior, and neuroendocrinology for many decades. The brown anole lizard, Anolis sagrei, is also ideal for developmental studies, due to its small size, ease of husbandry, short generation time, continuous egg production, high fertility, and low cost. This project aims to adapt CRISPR/Cas genome editing methods in A. sagrei. The development of genome editing tools in A. sagrei will establish the first reptilian model system where functional genetic and genomic experimental approaches are available. Such a model will provide a valuable system to investigate developmental mechanisms that are conserved across amniote species as well as to explore unique aspects of lizard development. We propose to access maturing oocytes within adult A. sagrei females through a surgical incision and microinject Cas9 RNPs to accomplish targeted genome editing for the creation of genetically modified lizards and the analysis of gene function.

Min Ya
Graduate Student, Harvard University
Advisor: Elena Kramer

Optimizing live-imaging and transgenic methods in Aquilegia
The spatial-temporal regulation of cell proliferation is a fundamental aspect of the development of all multicellular organisms. During plant development, duration of cell proliferation in the floral meristem (FM) is precisely controlled, yet little is known about how this process is fine-tuned in different taxa, because none of the established model systems can investigate these aspects in a comparative context. Aquilegia species have a low sequence variation and a high degree of interfertility, and their flowers have identical numbers of all floral organs except for stamens. Therefore, the variation in the duration of FM proliferation can be well represented by the variation of stamen whorl numbers. By optimizing single-point and time-lapse confocal imaging and establishing transgenic lines that can control cell proliferation in the FM while limiting pleiotropy, we will fully utilize the potential of Aquilegia as a model system for studying the regulation of stem cell proliferation in FM.
Last Updated on 02/19/2019