Molecular and Cellular Biology

2003 Recipient

debakeyawards-2003recipients (320x240)
Winners of the 2003 Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Awards. From left: Jeffrey A. Towbin, M.D., Michael D. Schneider, M.D., Michael E. DeBakey, M.D.,Lawrence Chan, M.D., and Kwang-Wook Choi, Ph.D.

Genetic control of early eye development and photoreceptor cell polarity

Kwang-Wook Choi, Ph.D., received the award for his contributions in genetic analysis of early and late events of eye development by using fruit fly Drosophila as a genetic system. Choi and his colleagues reported the presence of a novel long-range Hedgehog signaling that is transmitted to the eye disc primordium from the adjacent non-retinal epithelium called the peripodial membrane. During later stage of eye development, Choi’s group demonstrated that Crumbs protein and its interaction with Par-6 protein complex provide important apicobasal polarity cues for photoreceptor morphogenesis. Mutations in the human Crumbs homolog CRB1are known to cause severe forms of retinal diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa 12 (RP12) and Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). Therefore, genetic control of cell polarity in the fly eye provides an excellent model to study the mechanism of pathogenesis associated with these retinal diseases.

Dr. Choi’s nomination was based on the following publications:

Cho KO, Chern J, Izaddoost S, Choi KW. Novel signaling from the peripodial membrane is essential for eye disc patterning in Drosophila. Cell. 2000 Oct 13;103(2):331-42.

Izaddoost S, Nam SC, Bhat MA, Bellen HJ, Choi KW.Drosophila Crumbs is a positional cue in photoreceptor adherens junctions and rhabdomeres. Nature. 2002 Mar 14;416(6877):178-83.

Chern JJ, Choi KW. Lobe mediates Notch signaling to control domain-specific growth in the Drosophila eye disc.Development. 2002 Sep;129(17):4005-13.