PiN Faculty Member - Constance Cepko, PhD

Constance Cepko, PhD

Bullard Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Harvard Medical School
Department of Genetics
New Research Building, Room 360
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-7618
Fax: 617-432-7595
Visit my lab page here.

The Cepko lab investigates the mechanisms that direct development of the central nervous system (CNS) of vertebrates, with a focus on the retina, and is developing gene therapy vectors to prolong vision in those individuals who inherit a disease gene leading to blindness. They also develop new tools for genetic perturbations using nanobodies and are developing VSV as a transsynaptic virus for mapping synaptic connections among neurons. The lab uses genomic approaches to examine gene expression over time and identifies candidate genes for regulating cell cycle exit and cell fate choices. These studies have revealed that the retina has distinct types of progenitor cells that are biased, or committed, to produce distinct types of daughter cells in terminal divisions. The gene regulatory networks that underlie these cell fate choices are being studied by analysis of both gene function and cis-regulatory networks. Cell fate determination events are also being studied in the context of patterning in the chick retina, which exhibits a high acuity area, similar to the fovea in humans. The events that localize this zone to the center of the retina, and that direct the formation of specific cell types within this area, are under study.

To augment existing techniques that allow the analysis of gene function in specific cell types, they have derivatized nanobodies, which are small high affinity binding reagents derived from camelid antibodies. By making fusions of such nanobodies with transcription factors or recombinases, and by making the activity of these fusions dependent upon the nanobody's epitope, they have created reagents that allow functional perturbations or labeling only of cells that express the epitope. As some of these reagents are based upon GFP nanobodies, they have greatly expanded the utility of the many transgenic strains of animals that express GFP in specific patterns.

Last Update: 9/16/2020


For a complete listing of publications click here.



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