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Dissecting Gene Expression Networks in Mammalian Organogenesis (MORGEN)

Using the mouse as our model organism, we are identifying transcriptional networks of genes necessary for the development of the heart, lung, and pancreas.

Project Leaders Marco Marra , Pamela Hoodless
Project Co-Investigators Aly Karsan , Cheryl Helgason , Steven Jones , Sid Katz, Ed Levy
Involved Organizations
Genome Sciences Centre
BC Cancer Research Centre
University of British Columbia
Funding Agencies
Genome Canada
Genome British Columbia
Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC/Yukon
British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Vancouver Foundation
BC Cancer Foundation
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
Project Web site



The development of a creature from a single cell to a multi-cellular organism with each tissue and organ having a distinct architecture and function is truly remarkable. Cells must co-operate and communicate with one another so they divide, migrate, form connections, die, and change their identity in complex and co-ordinated patterns. Understanding how regulation of gene expression controls the development of tissues and organs in the embryo has far reaching implications for medical therapies, ranging from the problems associated with repairing congenital defects to new promising technologies such as stem cell therapies and tissue engineering. To accomplish these goals, it is necessary to fully understand how organs form. The MORGEN project aims to investigate the gene networks that regulate this process.


In the MORGEN project we have chosen to focus on the development of three organs in the mouse embryo, the heart, pancreas and liver. In particular, we will focus on tissues in the heart involved in valve formation and septation of the chambers, in the pancreas on the formation of islet cells, and in the liver on hepatocytes. Gene expression profiles in the chosen tissues at different times of development are being generated using Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE). To understand how gene expression is controlled, the critical transcription factors that regulate these genes are being investigated. In addition, we are developing techniques to identify genome-wide binding patterns of these specific transcriptional factors using chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with sequencing.


The MORGEN project will provide a complete, permanent, and accurate picture of mouse gene expression in the heart (atrioventricular canal and outflow tract), pancreas, and liver; new techniques to understand the interplay of proteins governing the expression of genes key to the development of these organ systems; and the identification of the “master regulatory switches” that control development of the tissues.

Publications by the MORGEN Team:

Contact Information

For all project related inquires please contact us.

Joanne Johnson, Project Manager
Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency
Phone: 604-675-8000 x 7901
Fax: 604-675-8178