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Project Overview

Developmental Biology (Prof. R. Huang)

The research of my group focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie embryonic development. We use the chick embryo as a vertebrate model organism, which is easy to manipulate using classical and molecular approaches. We are particularly interested in the signals that control cell fate decisions. For instance, we are investigating how somite cells give rise to skeletal muscle, cartilage, bone and tendon.

Current Research Projects

1. Development and regeneration of the intervertebral disc

By linking the powerful fate mapping techniques of chick-quail chimeras to tissue manipulation protocols and molecular biological techniques, we determined the fate of the somitocoel cells, a population of mesenchymal cells located in the centre of somites and showed that they contribute to the Anulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc. We termed the somite compartment formed by somitocoele cells as the arthrotome. We are going to analyze the signalling network controlling the development of the intervertebral disc.

2. Development of skeletal muscle satellite cells

Recently, we have shown that the somatopleure adjacent to the occipital somites has a myogenic potential and contributes to the superficial neck muscles and a shoulder girdle muscle. Furthermore, these muscles develop according to a myogenic repertoire, which is specific for head muscles. We are now investigating the developmental properties and regenerative competence of skeletal muscle satellite cells derived from somatopleure.

Selected publications

1. Huang, R., Zhi, Q., Schmidt, C., Wilting, J., Brand-Saberi, B. Christ, B.(2000): Sclerotomal origin of the ribs. Development 127, 527-532.

2. Huang, R., Zhi, Q., Patel, K., Wilting, J. and Christ, B.(2000): Dual origin and segmental organization of the avian scapula. Development 127, 3789‑94.

3. Huang R, Stolte D, Kurz H, Ehehalt F, Cann GM, Stockdale FE, Patel K, Christ B.(2003): Ventral axial organs regulate expression of myotomal Fgf‑8 that influences rib development. Dev Biol. 255, 30‑47.

4. Dieuguie Fomenou M, Scaal M, Stockdale, Christ B, Huang R (2005): Cells of all somitic compartments are determined with respect to segmental identity. Dev Dyn 233: 1386-93.

5. Baigang Wang, Liwen He, Florian Ehehalt, Poongodi Geetha-Loganathan, Suresh Nimmagadda, Bodo Christ, Martin Scaal, Ruijin Huang (2005): The formation of the avian scapula blade takes place in the hypaxial domain of the somites and requires somatopleure-derived BMP signals. Dev Biol 287:11-8.

6. Nimmagadda S, Geetha Loganathan P, Scaal M, Christ B, Huang R (2007): FGFs, Wnts and BMP4 mediate induction of VEGFR-2 (Quek1) expression during avian somite development. Dev Biol 305(2):421-9.

7. Theis S., Patel K., Valasek P., Otto A., Pu Q., Harel I., Tzahor E., Tajbakhsh S., Christ B., Huang R. (2010) The occipital lateral plate mesoderm – a novel source for vertebrate neck musculature. Development 137, 2961-2971

8. Wang B, Pu Q, De R, Patel K, Christ B, Wilting J, Huang R.(2010) Commitment of chondrogenic precursors of the avian scapula takes place after epithelial-mesenchymal transition of the dermomyotome. BMC Dev Biol. 31; 10:91.

9. Valasek Petr, Theis Susanne, DeLaurier April, Hinits Yaniv, Luke Graham N., Otto Anthony M., Minchin James, He Li-Wen, Christ Bodo, Brooks Gavin, Sang Helen, Evans Darrell J., Logan Malcolm, Huang Ruijin*, Patel Ketan* (2011) Cellular and molecular investigations into the development of the pectoral girdle. Dev Biol 357:108-116

Funded Projects

A. Completed projects

  • DFG-Project Hu 729/1-1; 1-2; 1-3 (1996-2000) „Die Derivate einzelner Somiten bei Vogelembryonen“
  • DFG-Project Hu 729/2-1; 2-2 (2001-2009) „Zelluläre und Molekulare Analyse der Scapulaentwicklung“
  • DFG-Project Hu 729/3-1; 3-2 (2003-2006) „Die Festlegung und Plastizität der Segmentidentität in den Somitenzellen“
  • SFB 592 Teilproject A1 (2001-2008) „Molekulare Steuerung der Proliferation, Differenzierung und Anordnung der hypaxialen Muskulatur“
  • DFG-Project Hu 729/5-1 (2006-2010) „Funktion der oberen Extremität bei der Entwicklung der distalen Schultergürtelmuskulatur“
  • Bonfor-Project (2008-2010) „Antagonistische Wirkung medialer und lateraler Signale bei der Frühentwicklung des Sklerotoms“

B. Ongoing projects

  • Signaling mechanisms of cranial motor axonal guidance (2009-2013) DAAD-Scholarship, Scholarship of Exchange Programme with Nanzhou-University, China.
  • DFG-Project Hu 729/10-1 (2011-2014) „Charakterisierung der somatopleuralen Myogenese bei Vogel und Maus“