Dr. Matt Crook
Assistant Professor of Biology
Office: Central Academic Building, RM 347C
The Crook lab is interested in fundamental questions of genetics and uses the power of the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to answer them. Although only a mm or so long, with 959 cells and a life span of weeks, C. elegans has a wide array of tools, from fluorescent reporter proteins, gene knockdown and now gene editing using CRISPR-Cas9 that make it a fantastic model for student led research.
I am currently studying three questions:
How do worms (and humans!) control lipid synthesis and fat levels?
How does overactive cell signaling promote cell survival?
How is the development of the worm reproductive system controlled and coordinated? (carried out in conjunction with Developmental Biology lab section)
We have found that overactive Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) signaling both promotes cell survival, through at least two separate pathways, and suppresses lipid synthesis via known lipid synthesis control genes. Both of these discoveries are relevant to the field of cancer biology, where cells survive when they shouldn’t and alter their metabolic profile, especially as overactive EGF signaling is correlated with a high proportion of lung cancers. Further work to connect cell signaling with the promotion of cell survival and suppression of lipid synthesis will be a key focus of my research with students here at A&M-SA.
We have also started to piece together a genetic network of cell cycle control proteins that control the development of the hermaphrodite gonad. Using gene knockdown, light and fluorescence microscopy we have characterized five genes that were previously not known to have a role in gonad development. Future Developmental Biology lab sections and interested student researchers will begin to place these genes into a pathway so we can understand how they interact.
I am always open to motivated students joining the lab, especially sophomores, and working with new people. If you’re interested in working on one of these projects or collaborating on a new project, please contact me by email.