Anatomy and Cell Biology

Robert Cornell, PhD


Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Contact Information

Office: 1-400 D Bowen Science Bldg.
51 Newton Road
Iowa City, IA 52242
Office Phone: 319-335-8908

Web: Pubmed link to publications


BS, Biological Sciences, with Honors, Stanford University

PhD, Biochemistry, University of Washington
Post Doctoral, Neuroscience/Genetics, University of Oregon

Education/Training Program Affiliations

Biosciences Graduate Program
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology Graduate Program
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience
Medical Scientist Training Program

Research Summary

Our work aims to dissect the gene regulatory networks that govern cell lineage specification, cell survival and cellular differentiation during embryonic development. In these studies we use zebrafish, a vertebrate model system well-suited to genetic and embryological methods. 
The Cornell lab group is currently pursuing several major projects. Members of the Transcription factor Activator Protein-2 (Tfap2) family are implicated in progression of melanoma and breast cancer, and are associated with risk for craniofacial abnormalities. We are studying how Tfap2 proteins fit into the gene regulatory networks governing development of melanocytes, or skin, and of the neural crest. Another focus is the gene regulatory network governing development of the periderm, a superficial epithelial structure. This network includes the transcription factor Interferon Regulatory Factor 6 (IRF6); mutations in IRF6 cause orofacial clefting. Improved knowledge of this network should facilitate efforts to identify other genes that, when damaged, contribute risk for orofacial clefting. Finally, networks of regulatory molecules control the expression of genes encoding differentiation effectors. We are studying how a family of ion channels, the transient receptor potential, melastatin-like (TRPM) proteins, effect the differentiation of melanocytes and dopaminergic neurons. Overall, research illuminates the genetic pathways that govern specification, survival, and differentiation of cells. It also provides insight into how these pathways become disrupted in a variety of disease states, including birth defects, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease.

Date Last Modified: 06/07/2014 - 21:56:23