Our research interests are broadly centered on studying the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms governing the development and differentiation of epithelial rich tissues. Our lab focuses on the lineage-specific master transcription factor, p63, which is a member of the p53 family of proteins. Using transgenic and knockout mouse models generated in the lab, we have demonstrated a critical role for p63 in directing stem/progenitor cell function and lineage choices, important for proper development of various tissues and organs including the skin and its appendages, the oral epithelium, and salivary glands.
One current area of interest in the lab is to investigate the role of p63 in various facets of salivary gland development, stem cell renewal, organ homeostasis and repair. p63 is highly expressed in the myoepithelial cells of the salivary gland and in its absence, this organ fails to develop. We are currently using fluorescent reporters in transgenic mice to track, isolate and characterize the p63+ salivary gland stem cells. Our long term goals are to identify p63 driven signaling pathways and transcriptional networks that mediate stem/progenitor cell function in the salivary gland as well as the oral epithelium, using molecular, biochemical and genomic approaches.