Richard R. Behringer

Richard Behringer



Professor, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

B.A., California State University, Northridge, 1979
M.S., California State University, Northridge, 1981
Ph.D., University of South Carolina, Columbia, 1986
Postdoc, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1986-89
Postdoc, University of Washington, Seattle, 1989-90

Mammalian embryogenesis, reproductive and stem cell biology and evolution

Our research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that lead to the formation of the mammalian body plan, the genesis of tissues and organs during embryogenesis and the pathology of developmental defects. In addition, we study the genetic mechanisms that result in organ morphology and physiology differences that have evolved between species. We utilize genetic, embryological and comparative approaches.

The mammalian reproductive organs are essential for the continuation of species and are common sites for disease. We are interested in defining the factors that cause the male and female phenotypes, including gonad and reproductive tract differentiation. To facilitate these studies, we have generated transgenic mice expressing novel fluorescent reporters for live-imaging to follow the behaviors of cells during reproductive organ formation. In addition, we are creating mouse models for cancers of the reproductive organs, e.g., the ovary. These mouse models may be useful for understanding the formation of human ovarian cancer and devising therapies.

Stem cells can generate more of themselves (self-renewal) or can produce the different cell types of the body (differentiation). Embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from pre-implantation embryos and have the potential to form any cell type of the body. Adult stem cells are present in our bodies to replenish cells that wear out (for example red blood cells, skin and even neurons). Adult stem cells can give rise to single or multiple cell types. We are currently genetically modifying human ES cells and other types of stem cells to devise future therapies of human disease.

We are also investigating developmental processes in divergent mammalian systems, including marsupials and chiropterans (bats). Mammalian embryogenesis and reproduction are very diverse between species, comparisons provide novel insights for reproduction, embryonic development and organogenesis. We collaborate with Marilyn Renfree (University of Melbourne) using the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) model to study sexual differentiation and limb development. Bats also offer a unique system to study the genetic mechanisms that diversify organogenesis. We have collaborated with John Rasweiler (SUNY Downstate) to establish the molecular embryology of the fruit bat, Carollia perspicillata, and are transferring bat genes into mice for functional studies of limb development. Our wallaby and bats studies are supported by field collections on Kangaroo Island, Australia and the island of Trinidad, respectively.

Rats are large laboratory rodents that are useful for studies of physiology, behavior, and other fields of biology. The rat genome has been sequenced, assembled and annotated. One particularly valuable resource to facilitate studies of mammalian gene function that is sorely lacking in the rat system is a large collection of mutants and a continuous source of new mutations. The ability to easily generate new mutant rat strains and to efficiently identify the mutated genes would significantly advance the use of this primary laboratory animal for biomedical research. We have used coat color-tagged transposons (piggyBac and Sleeping Beauty) to generate transgenic rats for random insertional mutagenesis. Our mutagenesis screen should lead to new rat models of human biology and disease.

Selected Publications

Ohtoshi A, Wang SW, Maeda H, Saszik SM, Frishman LJ, Klein WH, Behringer RR (2004) Regulation of retinal cone bipolar cell differentiation and photopic vision by the CVC homeobox gene Vsx1. Current Biology 14:530-536.

Chen CM, Behringer RR (2004) Ovca1 regulates cell proliferation, embryonic development, and tumorigenesis. Genes & Development 18:320-332.

Poche RA, Kwan KM, Raven MA, Furuta Y, Reese BE, Behringer RR (2007) Lim1 is essential for the correct laminar positioning of retinal horizontal cells. Journal of Neuroscience 27:14099-14107.

Chang H, Gao F, Guillou F, Taketo MM, Huff V, Behringer RR (2008) Wt1 negatively regulates beta-catenin signaling during testis development. Development 135:1875-1885.

Cretekos CJ, Wang Y, Green ED, Martin JF, Rasweiler JJt, Behringer RR (2008) Regulatory divergence modifies limb length between mammals. Genes & Development 22:141-151.

Stewart MD, Jang CW, Hong NW, Austin AP, Behringer RR (2009) Dual fluorescent protein reporters for studying cell behaviors in vivo. Genesis 47:708-717.

Stewart CA, Fisher SJ, Wang Y, Stewart MD, Hewitt SC, Rodriguez KF, Korach KS, Behringer RR (2011) Uterine gland formation in mice is a continuous process, requiring the ovary after puberty, but not after parturition. Biology of Reproduction 85:954-964.

Kobayashi A, Stewart CA, Wang Y, Fujioka K, Thomas NC, Jamin SP, Behringer RR (2011) beta-Catenin is essential for Mullerian duct regression during male sexual differentiation. Development 138:1967-1975.

Deng JM, Satoh K, Wang H, Chang H, Zhang Z, Stewart MD, Cooney AJ, Behringer RR (2011) Generation of viable male and female mice from two fathers. Biology of Reproduction 84:613-618.

Furushima K, Jang CW, Chen DW, Xiao N, Overbeek PA, Behringer RR (2012) Insertional mutagenesis by a hybrid piggyBac and sleeping beauty transposon in the rat. Genetics 192:1235-1248.

Contact Information

Richard R. Behringer, Ph.D.

Department of Molecular Genetics, Unit 1006
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77030, U.S.A.

Tel: (713) 834-6327
Fax: (713) 834-6339

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