Peter Lwigale

Peter Lwigale



Associate Professor, Rice University

B.S., University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, 1994
M.S., University of Northern Iowa, 1997
Ph.D., Kansas State University, 2001
Postdoc, California Institute of Technology, 2002-08

Molecular regulation of cell migration during eye development and cornea regeneration

I am interested in events that regulate the differentiation of the multipotent neural crest cells during corneal development and neural crest-derived stromal keratocytes during cornea regeneration. The cornea is a highly specialized transparent tissue located at the anterior-most surface of the eye. An embryonic cell population known as neural crest cells gives rise to majority of the cells in the cornea, including: stromal keratocytes, corneal endothelium, and sensory nerves. Development and regeneration of the cornea are both multi-step processes that involve coordinated migration and differentiation of neural crest cells and keratocytes, respectively, as well as the intricate patterning of sensory nerves. Using the chick as a model organism and a combination of molecular, microsurgical, and tissue culture approaches, we have shown that: 1) only a subpopulation of neural crest cells can properly contribute to the cornea, 2) corneal keratocytes retain the stem cell-like properties of their neural crest progenitors when challenged in an embryonic environment, and 3) the lens-derived axon guidance molecule, Semaphorin3A, regulates sensory innervation of the cornea. Currently, our research is aimed at further elucidating the role of guidance molecules during cornea development. Since cornea regeneration recapitulates development, we will extrapolate our studies to cornea wound healing. In addition to the chick, these studies will involve the mouse as a genetic model organism to further our understanding of the genes that are involved in these processes. We are also studying the stem cell potential of keratocytes and their characteristics in the embryonic environment. Ultimately, the goal of our research is to provide an insight into how guidance molecules are disrupted in congenital eye disorders and cornea wound healing, which may lead to discoveries of remedies or cures to these ocular problems.

Selected Publications

Cerny R, Lwigale PY, Ericsson R, Meulemans D, Epperlein HH, Bronner-Fraser M (2004) Developmental origins and evolution of jaws: new interpretation of “maxillary” and “mandibular”. Developmental Biology 276:225-236.

Lwigale PY, Conrad GW, Bronner-Fraser M (2004) Graded potential of neural crest to form cornea, sensory neurons and cartilage along the rostrocaudal axis. Development 131:1979-1991.

Lwigale PY, Cressy PA, Bronner-Fraser M (2005) Corneal keratocytes retain neural crest progenitor cell properties. Developmental Biology 288:284-293.

Lwigale PY, Bronner-Fraser M (2007) Lens-derived Semaphorin3A regulates sensory innervation of the cornea. Developmental Biology 306:750-759.

Shiau CE, Lwigale PY, Das RM, Wilson SA, Bronner-Fraser M (2008) Robo2-Slit1 dependent cell-cell interactions mediate assembly of the trigeminal ganglion. Nature Neuroscience 11:269-276.

Lee VM, Lwigale PY (2008) Neural crest, sensory neuron, and muscle cultures. Methods in Cell Biology 87:115-133.

Lwigale PY, Bronner-Fraser M (2009) Semaphorin3A/neuropilin-1 signaling acts as a molecular switch regulating neural crest migration during cornea development. Developmental Biology 336:257-265.

McKenna CC, Lwigale PY (2011) Innervation of the mouse cornea during development. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 52:30-35.

McKenna CC, Munjaal RP, Lwigale PY (2012) Distinct roles for neuropilin1 and neuropilin2 during mouse corneal innervation. PLoS One 7:e37175.

Schwend T, Lwigale PY, Conrad GW (2012) Nerve repulsion by the lens and cornea during cornea innervation is dependent on Robo-Slit signaling and diminishes with neuron age. Developmental Biology 363:115-127.

Contact Information

Peter Lwigale, Ph.D.

Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Rice University
339 Anderson Biological Labs
6100 Main Street
Houston, Texas 77251-1892, U.S.A.

Lab website

Tel: (713) 348-6785
Fax: (713) 348-5154

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