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Benjamin L. Martin, Ph.D.

martin Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

480 Life Sciences Building
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-5215
Office telephone: 631-632-1531

E-mail:   benjamin.martin@stonybrook.edu

The Martin Lab

  • Research Description

    Our laboratory uses zebrafish to understand the molecular basis of stem cell development and cancer pathogenesis.

    Stem cell development

    Stem cells hold vast potential for treating human disease. Understanding the in vivo behavior and signaling requirements of stem cells is an essential step towards the successful delivery of targeted stem cell therapy. We use the formation of the zebrafish body as a model to understand in vivo stem cell biology.

    All vertebrates undergo a period of posterior growth following gastrulation, during which the majority of the body forms from a posteriorly localized population of stem cells within a region called the tailbud. During this period of growth, numerous proliferative, morphogenetic, and fate specification decisions are made that culminate in the proper patterning of mesodermal and neuronal tissue types. Our lab is interested in determining the factors that influence these decisions during development. We use a combination of transgenic and cell transplantation techniques to probe the signaling requirements within individual stem cells.

    Cancer pathogenesis

    A common occurrence in the development and pathogenesis of human cancers is the misregulation of genes, signaling pathways, and genetic networks that are normally utilized during development. Deciphering the normal role that these factors play during development can help us understand cancer biology and allow us to develop targeted approaches to treating cancers that have co-opted developmental pathways.

    We study the specification and patterning of mesoderm in the developing zebrafish embryo. Recently, the developmentally specific transcription factor Brachyury was identified as a gene that is misexpressed in many different adult human cancer types. In functional tests, Brachyury contributes to the pathogenesis of certain cancers. We studied the function of Brachyury during mesoderm development and discovered that it regulates two signaling pathways, Wnt and retinoic acid. These signaling pathways are critical for the normal development of mesoderm, but are also well known for their role in cancer. We are modulating these pathways in the zebrafish embryo to determine how they specifically affect the molecular and morphological nature of individual cells.

  • Publications
    1. Taibi A.*, Mandavawala K.P.* Noel J.*, Okoye E.V., Milano C.R.,  Martin B.L., Sirotkin H.I. Zebrafish  churchill regulates developmental gene expression and cell migration.  Dev Dyn. In press. 

      * These authors contributed equally.
    2. So J.,  Martin B.L., Kimelman D., Shin D. Wnt/β-catenin signaling cell-autonomously induces endodermal cells to a liver fate.  Biol Open. 2013 Jan 15; 2(1): 30-6.
    3. McCarroll M.N., Lewis Z.R., Culbertson M.D.,  Martin B.L., Kimelman D., Nechiporuk A.V. Graded levels of Pax2a and Pax8 regulate cell differentiation during sensory placode formation.  Development. 2012 Aug; 139(15): 2740-50.
    4. Martin B. L., Kimelman, D. Canonical Wnt signaling dynamically controls multiple stem cell fate decisions during vertebrate body formation.  Dev Cell. 2012 Jan; 22(1): 223-32.
    5. Kimelman, D.,  Martin, B. L. Anterior-Posterior Patterning in Early Development: Three Strategies.  WIREs Dev Biol. 2012. doi: 10.1002/wdev.25
    6. Row R. R., Maitre J-L.,  Martin B. L., Stockinger P., Heisenberg, C-P., Kimelman D. Completion of the epithelial to mesenchymal transition in zebrafish mesoderm requires Spadetail.  Dev Biol. 2011 Jun 1; 354(1):102-10.
    7. Martin B. L., Kimelman, D. Brachyury establishes the embryonic mesodermal progenitor niche.  Genes Dev. 2010 Dec 15; 24(24): 2778-83.
    8. Peyrot S. P.*,  Martin B. L.*, Harland R. M. Lymph heart musculature is under distinct developmental control from lymphatic endothelium.  Dev Biol. 2010 Mar 15; 339(2): 429-38. 

      * These authors contributed equally.
    9. Martin B. L., Kimelman, D. Wnt signaling and the evolution of posterior embryonic development.  Curr. Biol. 2009 Mar 10; 19(5): R215-9.
    10. Martin B. L., Kimelman, D. Regulation of canonical Wnt signaling by Brachyury is essential for posterior mesoderm formation.  Dev. Cell. 2008 Jul; 15(1): 121-33.
    11. Martin B. L., Kimelman, D. Developmental biology: micro(RNA)-managing nodal.  Curr. Biol. 2007 Nov 20; 17(22): R975-7.
    12. Martin B. L., Peyrot S. P., Harland R. M. Hedgehog signaling regulates the amount of hypaxial muscle development during Xenopus myogenesis.  Dev Biol. 2007 Apr 15; 304(2): 722-34.
    13. Martin B. L., Harland R. M. A novel role for lbx1 in Xenopus hypaxial myogenesis.  Development. 2006 Jan;133(2):195-208.
    14. Martin B. L., Harland R. M. The developmental expression of two  Xenopus laevis steel homologues, Xsl-1 and Xsl-2.  Gene Expr Patterns. 2004 Dec;5(2):239-43.
    15. Grimaldi A., Tettamanti G.,  Martin B. L., Gaffield W., Pownall M. E., Hughes S. M. Hedgehog regulation of superficial slow muscle fibres in Xenopus and the evolution of tetrapod trunk myogenesis.  Development. 2004 Jul;131(14):3249-62.
    16. Martin B. L., Harland R. M. Hypaxial muscle migration during primary myogenesis in  Xenopus laevisDev Biol. 2001 Nov 15;239(2):270-80.
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