The Sikes Laboratory's primary research focus is on the evolution of postembryonic development, including regeneration and asexual reproduction. We utilize the tools of molecular cell biology and functional genomics to answer several biological questions related to these processes in acoel flatworms and planarians.
Evolution of Regeneration:
Regenerative abilities vary dramatically among the Metazoa and even vary spatially and temporally within many animals. To elucidate the molecular and developmental mechanisms by which regeneration has evolved, we use two clades of flatworms that each include regeneration-proficient and regeneration-deficient species. We are currently focusing on signals that re-establish axial polarity after amputation and differences in developmental processes that lead to varied organ regeneration.
Evolution of Asexual Reproduction:
The anterior-posterior (A-P) axis and left-right (L-R) axes are key features of the bilaterian body plan and are typically defined very early in embryogenesis. In many animals capable of asexual reproduction a novel axes arise in a multicellular, post-embryonic context. We investigate the establishment of novel body axes during budding and longitudinal fission in acoel flatworms. We are currently focusing on identifying the molecular and signaling cues during asexual reproduction in Convolutriloba acoels which reproduce by a remarkable process involving the formation of animals with linked but completely opposite body axes as well as longitudinal fission.
Lily Drake Cancer