My research explores the molecular mechanisms of tail development in the four-toed salamander, Hemidactylium scutatum.  Tail development in H. scutatum begins during early embryogenesis and continues with the addition of new tail segments throughout adulthood.  My work analyzes the expression of two key genes, Myf5 and Wnt8, known players in vertebrate segmentation and tail development.  Myf5 is a myogenic regulatory gene expressed during the early phases of embryonic segment formation.  Wnt8 acts as a tail organizer during embryogenesis of some vertebrates.  Analysis of the expression of these genes in the tails of H. scutatum embryos, larvae, and adults will offer insights on whether these genes control segmentation and tail development during all life stages.  

                I am using RT-PCR to analyze Myf5 and Wnt8 expression from embryos and larvae collected during the spring semester.  I have designed and tested multiple sets of primers to allow the detection of Myf5, Wnt8, and alpha actin transcripts in total RNA samples extracted from body and tail tissue.  Alpha actin transcripts serve as a positive control since all cells express this gene.  My preliminary results suggest that adult tail tips express both Myf5 and Wnt8 supporting the hypothesis that adult and embryonic tail segmentation and development utilize the same molecular pathways.  My next set of experiments will explore the expression of these genes in the tails and bodies of other select stages of embryonic and larval development.  Ultimately, we are hopeful that these results will offer new insights into the complex nature of tail development in vertebrates, such asH. scutatum, that continue to add tail segments throughout all life stages.

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