Heinz Gert de Couet
Professor Emeritus, Biology
Molecular Cell Biology and Developmental Evolution
My laboratory studies two aspects of cellular and organismal morphology utilizing the strengths of established model systems and making use of the unique fauna of the Hawai'ian islands. We use Drosophila melanogaster as a model system to study the role of genetic networks responsible for the function of the cytoskeleton. Specifically, we are elaborating the cell biological roles of identified cytoskeletal proteins with homologues in higher organisms. Drosophila offers the advantage of a sequenced genome and existing collections of genetically modified strains, in addition to a number of established techniques that make complex genetic manipulations possible on a routine basis. Methods applied to this project include a variety of molecular and genetic techniques, laser confocal microscopy and immunohistochemistry.
In addition, we are studying aspects of morphological evolution by characterizing developmental pathways involved in patterning the body plan of the native Hawai'ian sepiolid squid, Euprymna scolopes. Although they are highly derived organisms, cepha-lopods provide unique opportunities to study the de-velopment and evolution of a variety of specialized features, including the exceptional nervous system, sensory organs, a variety of appendages and other unique structures that are examples of morphological novelties among the molluscs. We are approaching this issue by isolating and characterizing genes that are part of a putative conserved evolutionary "toolkit" in metazoans, and by visualizing the temporal and spatial expression patterns of these genes during embryogenesis by in situ hybridization techniques. The knowledge of fundamental developmental proc-esses and the genes that govern them will reveal possible general mechanisms for the rapid emergence of morphological novelties during the pre- Cambrian period.
Lee, P. N., McFall-Ngai, M. J., Callaerts, P. and de Couet, H. G. 2009. Euprymna scolopes - a model to study the molecular basis of eukaryote-prokaryote mutualism and the development and evolution of morphological novelties in cephalopods. In Cold Spring Harb. Protoc. 4(11) doi:10.1101/pdb.emo135
Vishnu S. , A. Hertenstein, J. Betschinger, J. A. Knoblich, H. G. de Couet, K.-F. Fischbach. 2005. The adaptor protein X11L /Dmint1 interacts with the PDZ-binding domain of the cell recognition protein Rst in Drosophila. Dev. Biol 289: 296 - 307
Hoehne M., C Stuermer, H. G. de Couet and K-.F. Fischbach. 2005. Loss- and gain of function analysis of the lipid raft proteins Reggie/Flotillin in Drosophila: They are post-translationally regulated and misexpression interferes with wing and eye development. Mol. Cell. Neurosci. 30: 326 - 338