Jonathan J Henry

Office: (217) 333-4449
Lab: (217) 244-5921
Fax: (217) 244-1648

Mail to: Dept. of Cell and Developmental Biology
University of Illinois
601 S. Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801
Lab Page

Jonathan J Henry

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Associate Head of Cell and Developmental Biology

Research Topics

Development, Genomics, Imaging, Molecular Evolution, Pattern Formation, Signal Transduction


B.S., Lehigh University (Biology)
Ph.D., University of Texas-Austin (Zoology)
Postdoc., University of Virginia-Charlottesville
Postdoc., Indiana University

Mechanisms of cell determination; development and regeneration of the vertebrate lens; cornea stem cell biology; developmental basis for evolutionary change

The process of vertebrate lens induction. Our research efforts are aimed at understanding processes which lead to the determination of cell fate during embryogenesis. In particular, this work examines the role of cell-cell or inductive interactions, one of the most important modes of cell determination in vertebrate embryos. The developing lens represents a model system for studying this process. While the cell/tissue interactions involved in lens formation have been well characterized, relatively little is known of the molecular events responsible for lens formation. Some vertebrates are also able to regenerate the lens, including the frog Xenopus. We have identified a large suite of genes that are involved in lens cell determination in Xenopus. Using novel approaches, we are examining changes in gene expression, which are associated with the process of lens formation. In vivo functional assays are also being carried out to examine the role of specific transcripts in the context of both lens development and regeneration.

We are also interested in identifying inducer substances which control lens development and regeneration. Recent studies have shown that various growth factors may be active in these processes. We are developing transgenic frogs with inducible, dominant negative and active receptors to examine the roles of various signaling factors. The combination of molecular level studies, together with those involving transgenesis, tissue culture and transplantation, provide a powerful means to understanding the process of vertebrate lens formation, and those of embryonic cell determination, in general.

Developmental basis for evolutionary change. We have also been examining developmental events leading to the formation of diverse larval and adult body plans in different marine invertebrates, including a group of protostome phyla collectively referred to as the "Spiralia" The "Spiralia" represent a large group of closely related invertebrate phyla (members of the protostome, "Lophotrochozoa"). Studies point to significant levels of conservation in the functions of a number of regulatory and cell signaling pathways during development in the Metazoa, but most developmental/molecular studies have been carried out in a relatively small number of model systems. Therefore, the generality of so-called "fundamental" developmental processes within the Spiralia, and the Metazoa in general, is uncertain. Studies in our lab are being carried out to compare embryonic cell lineages and the mechanisms employed in cell and axis specification between representatives of these different groups. The molecular control of cell determination and embryonic axis formation is also being examined in these phyla. Together with modern molecular phylogeny data obtained by other labs, we are deciphering evolutionary change in developmental processes that lead to the construction of diverse larval and adult body plans.


Marcus Singer Medal for Regeneration Research, Singer Society

Representative Publications

Barnett, C., Yazgan, O., Kuo, H-C., Malakar, S., Thomas, T., Fitzgerald, A., Harbour, B., Henry, J. J. and Krebs, J. E. (2012). Williams Syndrome Transcription Factor (WSTF) is critical for neural crest function in Xenopus laevis. Mechanisms of Development. 129: 324-338.

Lyons, D. C. Perry, K. J., Lesoway, M. P. and Henry, J. Q. (2012). Cleavage pattern and fate map of the mesentoblast, 4d, in the gastropod Crepidula: A hallmark of spiralian development. EvoDevo 3 (1):21.

Amiel, A., Henry, J. Q. and Seaver, E. C. (2013). An organizing activity is required for head patterning and cell fate specification in the polychaete annelid Capitella teleta: New insights into cell-cell signaling in Lophotrochozoa. Developmental Biology 379: 107-122.

Perry, K. J., Thomas, A. and Henry J. J. (2013). Expression of pluripotency factors in the larval epithelia of the frog Xenopus: Evidence for the presence of cornea epithelial stem cells. Developmental Biology 380: 281-294. (Corregendum also published for Figure 7)

Fischer, A. Pang, K, Henry, J. Q., and Martindale, M.Q. (2014). A cleavage clock regulates features of lineage-specific differentiation in the development of a basal branching metazoan, the ctenophore Mnemiopsis ledyii. EvoDevo. 5(1): 4.

Thomas, A. G. and Henry, J. J. (2014). Retinoic acid regulation by CYP26 in vertebrate lens regeneration. Developmental Biology. 386: 291-301.

Hamilton, P. and Henry, J. J. (2014). Prolonged in vivo imaging of Xenopus laevis. Dev. Dynamics 243: 1011-1019.

Complete Publications List