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Rachel Smith-Bolton

Profile picture for Rachel Smith-Bolton

Contact Information

University of Illinois
Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory
601 S. Goodwin Ave. Room B107
Urbana IL 61801-3761

Associate Professor and Associate Head of Cell & Developmental Biology
Norman P. Jones Professorial Scholar
Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for MCB

Research Interests

Research Topics

Development, Pattern Formation, Regulation of Gene Expression, Signal Transduction

Disease Research Interests

Trauma, Bleeding & Tissue Regeneration

Research Description

Wound repair and tissue regeneration; Drosophila genetics; Development and patterning

After wounding or injury some organisms, tissues and organs carry out an elegant process of regeneration to repair and replace the lost tissue. By studying model systems that regenerate well we can understand the mechanisms that promote regeneration and use them to manipulate healing and re-growth in critical human organs.

The process of regeneration involves a series of steps, each of which is poorly understood. Some outstanding questions are:

  • How does a tissue sense damage?
  • How does a damaged tissue initiate new growth?
  • How is regenerative growth constrained so that it replaces only what was lost?
  • How are cell fates properly specified within the new tissue?
  • Does regeneration mimic development? If not, why?
  • Are there regeneration-specific growth and patterning mechanisms that are required to replace the lost structure?

My lab aims to answer these questions using the regeneration of a simple epithelial tissue, the wing imaginal disc, in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster.

We use genetic tools to induce tissue damage and regeneration in the developing Drosophila wing. Using this method we can induce tissue damage and regeneration in hundreds of animals simultaneously, enabling high-throughput experiments, forward genetic screens, and genomic approaches to identify the genes and mechanisms that regulate each step in regeneration.

Current projects in the lab:

  • Patterning and Development. We are characterizing expression of developmental patterning genes in regenerating tissue to determine the extent to which regeneration mimics development. When regeneration deviates from normal development, we are trying to understand how and why. We are also characterizing genes that are required for cell fate and pattern during regeneration but not during normal development (see Schuster and Smith-Bolton, Developmental Cell 2015).
  • Chromatin. We are exploring how tissue damage induces the changes in gene expression that drive regeneration. We have focused on chromatin modifiers and remodeling complexes as key regulators of specific aspects of regeneration and subsets of regeneration genes.

In addition, the novel regeneration genes identified in our genetic screen and transcriptional profiling are leading us in exciting new directions. Stay tuned!


B.A., Harvard University
Ph.D., Stanford University
Postdoctoral fellow, University of California Berkeley

Awards and Honors

2018-2019 I. C. Gunsalus Scholar
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust Young Investigator Award
Arnold O. Beckman Research Award

Additional Campus Affiliations

Highlighted Publications

Abidi SNF, and Smith-Bolton RK. (2018). Cell fate changes induced by a Distal-less enhancer-trap transgene in the Drosophila antennal imaginal disc. Sci Rep 8:4950. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23093-z

Khan SJ, Abidi SNF, Skinner A, Tian Y, Smith-Bolton RK (2017) The Drosophila Duox maturation factor is a key component of a positive feedback loop that sustains regeneration signaling. PLoS Genet 13(7): e1006937. 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006937

Brock AR, Seto M, Smith-Bolton RK. (2017) Cap-n-collar Promotes Tissue Regeneration by Regulating ROS and JNK Signaling in the Drosophila Wing Imaginal Disc. Genetics. July 1, 2017. 206(3): 1505-1520.

Sumbul Jawed Khan, Keaton J Schuster, and Rachel K. Smith-Bolton. (2016). Regeneration in Crustaceans and Insects. eLS.…

Sumbul Jawed Khan*, Syeda Nayab Fatima Abidi*, Yuan Tian, Andrea Skinner and Rachel K. Smith-Bolton. (2016). A rapid, gentle and scalable method for dissociation and fluorescent sorting of imaginal disc cells for mRNA sequencing. Fly.

Andrea Skinner, Sumbul Jawed Khan, and Rachel K. Smith-Bolton. (2015). Trithorax regulates systemic signaling during Drosophila imaginal disc regeneration. Development 142: 3500-3511

Keaton J. Schuster and Rachel K. Smith-Bolton. (2015). Taranis protects regenerating tissue from fate changes induced by the wound response in Drosophila. Developmental Cell. 34(1): 119-128.

Rachel K. Smith-Bolton. (2014). Drosophila imaginal discs as a model of epithelial wound repair and regeneration. Advances in Wound Care. doi:10.1089/wound.2014.0547.

Rachel K. Smith-Bolton, Melanie Worley, Hiroshi Kanda, and Iswar K. Hariharan. (2009). Regenerative growth in Drosophila imaginal discs is regulated by Wingless and Myc. Developmental Cell. 16(6): 797-809.

Leslie A. Jarvis*, Stephanie J. Toering*, Michael A. Simon, Mark A. Krasnow, and Rachel K. Smith-Bolton*. (2006). Sprouty proteins are in vivo targets of Corkscrew/SHP-2 tyrosine phosphatases. Development. 133(6): 1133-42. *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Rachel K. Smith, Pamela M. Carroll, John D. Allard, and Michael A. Simon. (2002). MASK, a large ankyrin repeat and KH domain-containing protein involved in Drosophila receptor tyrosine kinase signaling. Development. 129(1): 71-82.

Recent Publications

Tian, Y., & Smith-Bolton, R. K. (2021). Regulation of growth and cell fate during tissue regeneration by the two SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complexes of Drosophila. Genetics, 217(1), [iyaa028].

Fox, D. T., Cohen, E., & Smith-Bolton, R. (2020). Model systems for regeneration: Drosophila. Development (Cambridge), 147(7), [173781].

Abidi, S. N. F., & Smith-Bolton, R. K. (2018). Cell fate changes induced by a Distal-less enhancer-trap transgene in the Drosophila antennal imaginal disc. Scientific reports, 8(1), [4950].

Brock, A. R., Seto, M., & Smith-Bolton, R. K. (2017). Cap-n-Collar promotes tissue regeneration by regulating ROS and JNK signaling in the drosophila melanogaster wing imaginal disc. Genetics, 206(3), 1505-1520.

Khan, S. J., Abidi, S. N. F., Skinner, A., Tian, Y., & Smith-Bolton, R. K. (2017). The Drosophila Duox maturation factor is a key component of a positive feedback loop that sustains regeneration signaling. PLoS genetics, 13(7), [e1006937].

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