Research group of Dr. Nipam Patel, University of California, Berkeley

Research group of Dr. Nipam Patel, University of California, Berkeley

Nipam Patel is a professor in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Molecular Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His laboratory is interested in the evolution of development, primarily in arthropods.

Over the past two decades, developmental biologists have made great strides in understanding embryonic pattern formation at the genetic, molecular, and cellular levels. Much of this advancement can be attributed to the remarkable success of studies of pattern formation in model systems, such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Identification of genes that play major roles in setting up the body plan, combined with the subsequent discovery that many of these genes are well conserved even between different phyla, has also led to a renaissance in the investigation of the links between evolution and development.

Using information collected from studies of Drosophila development, the Patel lab explores the degree to which developmental pathways have been conserved or altered between various arthropods. Insights into the nature of developmental and molecular alterations will help us to understand the evolutionary changes in the mechanisms of pattern formation and provide a molecular basis for analyzing the diversification of body morphologies and developmental mechanisms. Most recently, the Patel lab has focused on the crustacean, Parhyale hawaiensis, which has several properties that make it an ideal organism to explore the evolutionary diversification of segmentation, body regionalization, and early cell determination.

Nipam completed his Ph.D. in the lab of Dr. Corey Goodman in the Department of Biological Science at Stanford University . He then went on to a Staff Associate position in the Department of Embryology at the Carnegie Institution. He moved to a faculty appointment at the University of Chicago in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and became an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute before starting is current position at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Patel lab uses both Openlab and Volocity software to capture images of both live and fixed embryos of several different arthropods. Volocity is used to acquire multiwavelength fluorescent Z stack images of live embryos, often over the course of many days. This allows them to track in detail the timing and movement of cells labeled with lineage tracers. These techniques are employed to track normal development as well as development in experimentally manipulated animals. They also use Volocity for deconvolution of images taken on their epi-fluorescent microscope and 3D reconstructions and analysis of Z stacks acquired with a confocal microscope.

Nipam writes "Volocity and Openlab software have been an enormous help in all our live imaging studies, and using it has allowed us to make significant advancements in our analysis of embryonic pattern formation."

Please visit the Patel lab web site for more detail about the lab's research. Below are two images that were captured by researchers in the Patel lab. Click here to view a small Quicktime movie of an FM4-64 labeled embryo that shows the first few cell divisions.

Red germline cells labeled by injection of DsRed mRNA into the single germline precursor cell while the embryo was at the 8-cell stage.  The embryo is made visible by overlaying the fluorescent images with reflected light images captured at the same time. Courtesy of Matthias Gerberding and Nipam Patel.

Live embryo stained for FM4-64 to highlight the membranes. The images are from the two different sides of the same embryo and shows the four macromere cells (on the animal side, right image) and the four micromere cells (on the vegetal side, left image).  Courtesy of Melinda Modrell and Nipam Patel