Meeting Abstract

S2-1.3  Jan. 4  Unraveling the basis for species-specific facial form HELMS, J.A.*; BRUGMANN, S.; ALLEN, N.; YOUNG, N.M.; Stanford University; Stanford University; Stanford University; Stanford University

The human face shows remarkable variability and because of this it is oftentimes the singular feature used to distinguish and discriminate among individuals. Despite this exclusivity, the structural edifice of the face is so highly conserved that its underlying pattern is shared by nearly all vertebrates. One might then wonder, what forces act to establish the craniofacial bauplan? And what are the driving influences behind the divergence in craniofacial form? As Darwin and many other scientists speculated, the answer to both questions lies in natural selection- but the molecular pathways which establish the global organization of the face remain unknown. In this talk I will present new data that addresses this question, beginning with the identification of key pathways that control local proliferation within the emerging facial prominences and thus lead to species-specific variations in facial form. How much genetic change has to occur in order to generate such craniofacial diversity is still a mystery, but we explore this question by modulating these pathways in an incremental fashion, and observe the resulting variations in craniofacial morphology. In the end, our goal is a detailed understanding the tissue interactions that mediate normal craniofacial morphogenesis because this information provides much needed clues into the developmental steps that underlie species-specific craniofacial diversity.