Skip to main content

About the Dean of GSAS

Dean Cooley’s research program is focused on germ cells, which are the only cells in our bodies able to transmit genetic information to the next generation. Research at the Cooley lab is aimed at understanding how germ cells produce the eggs and sperm needed to create new individuals.

As a postdoc, Dean Cooley developed the first large-scale mutagenesis screen in Drosophila using single P elements as the mutagen. The approach greatly accelerated cloning of affected genes using the P element as a molecular tag. She started her own research program at the Yale University School of Medicine in 1989 with molecular analysis of two mutations affecting egg growth during oogenesis. Research undertaken by members of her laboratory revealed that carefully regulated changes in the organization of the actin cytoskeleton is essential for the egg development. Her work helped to establish Drosophila oogenesis as a powerful model system for studying development from undifferentiated stem cells to mature adult cells. Cellular mechanisms used to control oocyte development in Drosophila are directly relevant to female fertility in other animals, including humans.

Currently Professor Cooley’s research is focused on intercellular bridges called ring canals that connect cells as they form eggs and sperm. Ring canals are present in germ cells throughout the animal kingdom from insects to humans. This conservation over millions of years of evolution suggests ring canals provide an important advantage to germ cells as they develop. The Drosophila system provides an excellent model for investigating ring canal formation and function. The Cooley lab has documented extensive sharing of cellular components through ring canals in both males and females. Her lab is now investigating how ring canals form in the first place, how they are stabilized, and the kinds of information shared through ring canals.