Donna M. Fekete

Donna M. Fekete Profile Picture

Professor of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., Harvard, 1984

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Integrative Neuroscience

Active Mentor - currently hosting PULSe students for laboratory rotations and recruiting PULSe students into the laboratory; serves on preliminary exam committees

Current Research Interests:

Developmental Neurobiology. Our inner ears do more than hear; they also help to maintain our balance and equilibrium. We perform these tasks using specialized cells, called hair cells, that are topped with stiff microcellular 'hairs'. At the limit of human hearing, a push on the hairs of atomic dimensions (the diameter of a hydrogen atom) can be detected as sound. Our lab seeks to understand how hair cells are formed in the embryo. We are also interested in a host of other ear cells that support hair cells or send their signals to the brain. Several projects are ongoing to look at molecules that influence axon guidance of the inner ear ganglion neurons. We use viruses and other methods to trace the origin of inner ear cells in mouse and chicken ears. Viruses also allow us to deliver genes into embryonic ear cells to try to influence what type of cell they will become. Zebrafish has also become an important model system for our work; we are focussing on the role of microRNAs to modulate genes that regulate cell specification and differentiation. Some of these will be tested as therapeutic tools to induce hair cell regeneration in mouse models of deafness. Altogether, the animal models allow us to study and manipulate events that, in humans, happen within the first 3-6 weeks of pregnancy. We aim to understand how inner ear cells are made in the hope that these discoveries may someday prove useful in the treatment of human birth defects, deafness and balance disorders (such as Meniere's Disease).

Cancer-related researchWnt signaling and the control of cell proliferation and cell death. Our lab is affiliated with the Cell Growth and Differentiation program of the Purdue Cancer Center. We seek to understand the role of Wnt signaling in establishing a homeostatic balance between cell proliferation and cell death. Perturbation in Wnt signaling, particularly through gain-of-function activation, is known to give rise to a variety of human cancers. We use retrovirus-mediated gene transfer methods to generate excess Wnt signaling during inner ear development. This leads to abnormally enlarged inner ears displaying extra sensory organs, a phenotype also associated with gain-of-function Notch signaling. Our results suggest there may be a link bewteen Wnt signaling and activation of the Notch signaling pathway to mediate growth control and induction of cell differentiation. To reveal which endogenous Wnt signaling pathway members may be active in controlling these events, we have screened a panel of 27 Wnt-related genes and find many of them expressed during key stages of inner ear development. Experiments are underway to manipulate these genes to explore their function in growth, programmed cell death, morphogenesis and hair bundle polarity.

Editorial Board Member: Development, Developmental Biology, Developmental Neurobiollogy

Honors: University Faculty Scholar, AAAS Fellow

Selected Publications:

Groves, A. K. and D. M. Fekete. 2011. Shaping sound in space: the regulation of inner ear patterning. Development, manuscript accepted. (Review)

Fantetti, K. N., Y. Zou and D. M. Fekete. 2011. Dissection and culture of chick SAG and spinal cord explants to test neurite responsiveness to morphogens in vitro. JoVE, manuscript accepted.

Fantetti, K. N. and D. M. Fekete. 2011. Members of the BMP, Shh and FGF morphogen families promote chicken statoacoustic ganglion neurite outgrowth and neuron survival in vitro. Developmental Neurobiology, manuscript accepted.

Liang, H., D. M. Fekete and O. Andrisani. 2011. CtBP2 down-regulation during neural crest specification induces expression of Mitf and REST, resulting in melanocyte differentiation and sympathoadrenal lineage suppression. Molecular and Cellular Biology, 31: 955-970.

Fantetti, K. N., Y. Zou and D. M. Fekete. 2011. Wnts and Wnt inhibitors do not influence axon outgrowth from chicken statoacoustic ganglion neurons. Hearing Research, 278: 86-95.

Kilpatrick, L. A., Q. Li, J. Yang, J. C. Goddard, D. M. Fekete, H. Lang. 2011. Adeno-associated virus-mediated gene delivery into the scala media of the normal and deafened adult mouse ear, Gene Therapy online publication 6 January 2011; doi: 10.1038/gt.2010.175.

Sienknecht, U.J., B.K. Anderson, R.M. Parodi, K.N. Fantetti and D.M. Fekete. 2011. Non-cell autonomous planar cell polarity propagation in the auditory sensory epithelium of vertebrates. Developmental Biology, 352: 27-39.

Li, H., W. Kloosterman and D. M. Fekete. 2010. MicroRNA-183 family members regulate sensorineural fates in the inner ear. J. Neuroscience. 30: 3254-3263.

Li, H. and D. M. Fekete. 2010. MicroRNAs in hair cell development and disease. Current Opinion in Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery. 18: 459-465. (Review)

Abraira, V.E., T. Satoh, D.M. Fekete and L. V. Goodrich. 2010. Vertebrate Lrig3-ErbB interactions occur in vitro but are unlikely to play a role in Lrig3-dependent inner ear morphogenesis. PLoS ONE 5(2): e8981. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008981.

Friedman, L.M., A.A. Dror, E. Mor, T. Tenne, G. Toren, T. Satoh, D.J. Biesemeier, N. Shomron, D.M. Fekete, E. Hornstein and K.B. Avraham (2009) MicroRNAs are essential for development and function of inner ear hair cells in vertebrates. PNAS, 106:7915-7920 .

Sienknecht, U.J. and D.M. Fekete (2009) Mapping of Wnt, Frizzled and Wnt inhibitor gene expression domains in the avian otic primordium. J. Comparative Neurology, 517: 751-764.

Sienknecht, U.J. and D.M. Fekete (2008) Comprehensive Wnt-related gene expression during cochlear duct development. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 510:378-395.

Battisti, A.C. and D.M. Fekete (2007) Expression of Slits and robos in the developing chicken inner ear. Developmental Dynamics, 237:476-484.

Fekete, D.M. and A.M. Campero (2007) Axon guidance in the inner ear. International Journal of Developmental Biology 51: 549-556. (Review)

Blaisole, B., V.A. Canfield, M.A. Vollrath, D. Huss, M.-A. P.K. Mohideen, J.D. Dickman, K.C. Cheng, D.M. Fekete and R. Levenson. (2006) Separate Na,K-ATPase genes are required for otolith formation and semicircular canal development in zebrafish. Developmental Biology 294: 148-160.

Satoh, T. and D.M. Fekete (2005) Clonal analysis of the relationships between mechanosensory cells and the neurons that innervate them in the chicken ear. Development 132: 1687-1697.

Cepko, C.L. and D.M. Fekete (2004) Stem cells in eye and ear. In: Handbook of Embryonic Stem Cells, (R.P. Lanza, J.D. Gearhart, B.L.M. Hogan, R.D. McKay, D.A. Melton, R. Pedersen, J.A. Thomson and M.D. West, eds.), Academic Press, Volume 1, pp. 263-264. (Book chapter)

Stevens, C.B., A.L. Davies, S. Battista, J.H. Lewis and D.M. Fekete (2003) Forced activation of Wnt signaling alters morphogenesis and sensory organ identity in the chicken inner ear. Developmental Biology 261: 149-164.

Fekete, D.M. and D.K. Wu (2002) Revisiting cell fate specification in the inner ear. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 12:35-42. (Review)

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