BBS Faculty Member - Clifford Tabin

Clifford Tabin

Department of Genetics

Harvard Medical School
Dept. of Genetics, NRB 360
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-7799
Fax: 617-432-7944
Lab Members: 8 postdoctoral fellows, 5 graduate students
Visit my lab page here.

The laboratory studies the genetic basis by which form and structure are regulated during vertebrate development. In this work, we combine classical methods of experimental embryology with modern molecular and genetic techniques for regulating gene expression during embryogenesis, as well as biophysical investigations into the role of physical forces in sculpting the embryo. We also investigate the genetic changes underlying morphological, behavioral and metabolic evolution in vertebrates.

One of the classic systems for the study of embryonic development is the chick embryo, where grafting experiments have given profound insight into such questions as the patterning of developing limb axes, and the control of organogenesis. These classical experiments provide a context for interpreting modern molecular studies and the methods they employed also give us an additional set of tools for manipulating the embryo. For example, we can use retroviral vectors to alter gene expression in the context of specific transplantations or extirpations. Important complementary information is gained from studies taking advantage of the powerful techniques for regulated misexpression and gene deletion in the mouse.

The lab has major efforts underway exploiting these approaches to understand limb development, from the establishment of the initial axes, to understanding the difference in genetic controls between an arm and a leg, through later specific events such as differential bone growth and specific muscle patterning as well as gut morphogenesis. We also have evolutionary projects examining the developmental and genetic basis for the adaptations of cavefish and other creatures to unique environmental conditions.

Last Update: 12/7/2016


For a complete listing of publications click here.



Aspiras, A.C., Rohner, N., Martineau, B., Borowsky, R.L., and Tabin, C.J. Melanocortin 4 receptor mutations contribute to the adaption of cavefish to nutrient-poor conditions. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112(31): 9668-9673 (2015).

Cooper, K.L., Sears, K.E., Uygur, A., Maier, J., Baczkowski, K.S., Bronahan, M., Antczak, D., Skidmore, J.A. and Tabin, C.J. Patterning and post-patterning modes of evolutionary digit loss in animals.
Nature 511(7507): 41-45 (2014).

Gros, J. and Tabin, C.J. Vertebrate limb bud formation is initiated by localized epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
Science 343(6176): 1253-1256 (2014).

Shyer, A.E., Huycke, T.R., Lee, C., Mahadevan, L., and Tabin, C.J. Bending gradients: how the intestinal stem cell gets its home.
Cell 161(3): 569-580 (2015).

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