Interdisciplinary Life Science - PULSe Great research is a matter of choice

Donald F. Ready

Donald F. Ready Profile Picture

Professor of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, 1976

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Integrative Neuroscience

Current Research Interests:

Like development generally, neural development can be roughly divided into two phases, pattern formation, which puts the right cells in the right places and morphogenesis, which elaborates the distinct cellular architectures appropriate for specific cell types. We use the developing Drosophila compound eye to study the molecular mechanisms of these processes. The genetics and molecular biology of Drosophila provide exceptional access to developmental mechanisms and the developing fly eye provides a neural epithelium in which key developmental events are uniquely observable. Studies of pattern formation in the fly eye have produced useful insights into cell-cell interactions that determine ell fate during development. Other interesting and general features of neural development including cell death, tissue polarity, inductive interactions and cell-substrate interactions have been studied in developing fly eyes.

Our current focus is rhabdomere morphogenesis. Rhabdomeres are the rhodopsin-loaded photosensitive membranes of compound eye photoreceptors. Like their vertebrate counterparts, the outer segments of rod and cone photoreceptors, fly rhabdomeres are enormously amplified apical cell surfaces. Rhabdomere morphogenesis is supported by the assembly of an extended and highly regular membrane-cytoskeletal interaction. The nature of this interaction is poorly understood, but is of considerable interest for problems of retinal degeneration. In both flies and humans, rhodopsin mutants result in photoreceptor degeneration. Developmental analysis shows rhodopsin plays an essential role in rhabdomere morphogenesis and that it must be present during a critical developmental window to exert this effect.

Research ongoing in the lab includes exploration of the role of small GTPases, key regulators of actin-membrane associations, in rhabdomere morphogenesis. Conditional expression of engineered proteins in transgenic animals, a method readily available in Drosophila, is particularly useful for these studies. We are characterizing a novel gene essential for the proper organization of plasma membrane subdomains during rhabdomere development and are more closely examining the critical period when rhodopsin is required for normal rhabdomere morphogenesis. Many aspects of rhabdomere morphogenesis remain unexplored; they offer many avenues for interesting research.

Selected Publications:

Longley, Jr., R. L., and D. F. Ready. 1995. Integrins and the development of three-dimensional structure in the Drosophila compound eye. Dev. Biol. 171:415-433.

Kumar, J. P. and D. F. Ready. 1995. Rhodopsin plays an essential structural role in Drosophila photoreceptor development. Development 121: 4359-4370.

Fan, S.-S. and D. F. Ready. 1997. Glued participates in distinct microtubule-based activities in Drosophila eye development. Development 124:1497-1507.

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