Caroline Hills lab at the Francis Crick Institute in London is focused on studying cell signalling. In particular, she is interested in signalling by the TGF-ß family of growth and differentiation factors. Tight regulation of these signalling pathways is crucial for embryonic development in all organisms from worms and flies to humans, and deregulation of these pathways is a major cause of tumour growth and spread in cancer. Her lab is focused on understanding how these pathways are regulated and function in embryonic development and she uses zebrafish embryos as a system to study this. She also wants to understand how this signalling is deregulated in cancer, with the ultimate aim of developing new therapeutics.
Her talk will focus on new work in the lab studying the mechanism whereby these signalling pathways activate transcription and her recent discovery of the mechanism whereby the earliest domain of signalling by one of these family members (Nodal) is established and shaped during early zebrafish development. This work has led her to an understanding of how Nodal signalling is involved in determining the choice between mesodermal and endodermal cell fates during early embryogenesis.