Francisco Pelegri

Position title: Professor & Department Chair

Pronouns: he/him/his


Phone: (608) 263-6699

Genetics and Medical Genetics
Cellular and developmental mechanisms in the vertebrate egg-to-embryo transition, early cell fate specification

2424 Genetics/Biotech
Medical Genetics Ph.D., M.I.T. (1994), Postdoctoral Research: Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tuebingen, Germany
Genetics and Medical Genetics
Research Interests
Analysis of cellular and developmental mechanisms involved in the vertebrate egg-to-embryo transition and early cell fate specification
Research Fields
Cell Biology, Computational, Systems & Synthetic Biology, Development, Zebrafish

Research Description:

Cellular and Developmental Genetics: early vertebrate embryonic development and determination of the germ line. A primary focus of our research is on the functional diversification of cell types, particularly but not exclusively the development of the germ line. We use the zebrafish, Danio rerio, as a model system because it allows combining genetic, embryological and molecular approaches. In the zebrafish, as in many other animal species, all developmental processes that occur prior to the activation of the zygotic genome at the mid-blastula transition, as well as some processes that occur after this transition, are driven by maternal factors stored in the egg during oogenesis. We use an interdisciplinary approach, spanning genetics, microscopy, bioinformatics and modeling, to understand how these maternal factor-driven early embryonic processes, from the cytoskeleton to gene expression, are integrated to generate the basic body plan. We are focusing on processes that mediate the inheritance of RNA and protein components that form the germ plasm, a specialized cytoplasmic biocondensate that promotes the germ cell fate, as well as how factors within this structure activate the zygotic germ cell gene expression program.

Conservation Genetics: advanced reproductive strategies to preserve animal biodiversity. Advanced reproductive approaches relying on biobanked animal samples can potentially help preserve biodiversity in animal populations. We are using the Danionin family of fish, which includes the genera Danio, Devario, Microdevario and Danionella, as a phylogenetic developmental model to optimize inter-species reproductive approaches. These include the generation of nucleocytoplasmic hybrids in cloning, and germ plasm and somatic chimeras for gonad and gamete production. These strategies may all allow the generation of individuals from endangered animal populations using hosts from non-endangered related species. We also use Danionins to explore optimal methods for the banking of biological samples and the regeneration of animal populations. By strategically exploring advanced sample preservation and reproductive technologies, we hope to provide useful insights relevant to the conservation of animal biodiversity.

Representative Publications:
Search PubMed for more publications by Francisco Pelegri

Eno, C., Hansen, C.L., Pelegri, F. (2019) Aggregation, segregation and dispersal of homotypic germ plasm RNPs in the early zebrafish embryo. Dev. Dyn. 248, 306-318, doi: 10.1002/dvdy.18.

Eno, C., Pelegri, F. (2018) Modulation of F-actin dynamics by maternal Mid1ip1L controls germ plasm aggregation and furrow recruitment in the zebrafish embryo. Development 145, dev156596. doi: 10.1242/dev.156596

Eno, C. Gomez, T., Slusarski, D.C., Pelegri, F. (2018) Slow calcium waves mediate furrow microtubule reorganization and germ plasm compaction in the early zebrafish embryo (2018). Development 145, dev156604. doi: 10.1242/dev.156604

Welch, E.L., Eno, C.C., Lindeman, R., Nair, S., Pelegri, F. (2017) Functional manipulation of maternal gene products using in vitro oocyte maturation in zebrafish. J. Vis. Exp, 122, e55213, doi:10.3791/55213.

Baars, D.L., Takle, K.A., Heier, J., Pelegri, F. (2016) Ploidy manipulation of zebrafish embryos with Heat Shock II treatment. J. Vis. Exp 118, e54492, doi: 10.3791/54492.

Zampedri, C., Tinoco-Cuellar, M., Carrillo-Rosas, S., Diaz-Tellez, A., Ramos-Balderas, J.L., Pelegri, F., Maldonado, E. (2016) The two zebrafish P54 RNA helicases are stress granules components important for development and stress resilience. Biology Open 5:1473-1484. doi 10.1242/bio.015826

Eno, C., Solanki, B., Pelegri, F. (2016) aura (mid1ip1l) regulates the cytoskeleton at the zebrafish egg-to-embryo transition. Development, 143, 1585-1599. doi: 10.1242/dev.130591

Cortical depth and differential transport of vegetally localized dorsal and germ line determinants in the zebrafish embryo. (2015) Welch, E., Pelegri, F. Bioarchitecture 5, 13-26.

Ploidy manipulation and induction of alternate cleavage patterns through inhibition of centrosome duplication in the early zebrafish embryo. (2015) Heier, J., Takle, K.A., Hasley, A.O., Pelegri, F. Dev. Dyn. 244, 1300-1312.

Ge, X., Grotjahn, D., Welch, E., Holguin, C., Lyman-Gingerich, J., Dimitrova, E., Abrams, E., Marlow, F., Yabe, T., Mullins, M., Pelegri, F. (2014) Hecate/Grip2a acts to reorganize the cytoskeleton in the symmetry-breaking event of embryonic axis induction. PLoS Genetics 10, e1004422.

Eno, C., Pelegri,
F. (2013) Gradual recruitment and selective clearing generate germ plasm aggregates in the zebrafish embryo. Bioarchitecture 3, 125-132.

Nair, S., Marlow, F., Abrams, E., Kapp, L., Mullins, M., Pelegri, F. 2013. The chromosomal passenger protein Birc5b organizes microfilaments and germ plasm in the zebrafish embryo. PLoS Genetics 9, e1003448.

Nair, S., Lindeman, R.E., and Pelegri F. 2013. In vitro oocyte culture-based manipulation of zebrafish maternal genes. Dev Dyn. 2013 Jan;242(1):44-52. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.23894. Epub 2012 Nov 24.

Lindeman, R.E., Pelegri, F. 2012. Localized products of futile cycle/lrmp promote centrosome-nucleus attachment in the zebrafish zygote. Current Biology 22, 843-851.

Putiri, E. and Pelegri, F. 2011. The zebrafish maternal-effect gene mission impossible encodes the DEAH-box helicase Dhx16 and is essential for the expression of downstream endodermal genes. Dev. Biol. 353, 275-289.

Yabe, T., Ge. X., Lindeman R., Nair, S., Runke G., Mullins M.C., and Pelegri, F. 2009. The maternal-effect gene cellular island encodes Aurora B kinase and is essential for furrow formation in the early zebrafish embryo. PloS Genetics 5, e1000518.

Yabe, T., Ge, X. and F. Pelegri. 2007. The zebrafish maternal-effect gene cellular atoli encodes the centriolar component Sas-6 and defects in its paternal function promote whole genome duplication. Developmental Biology, 312:44-60.

Urven, L., Yabe, T. and F. Pelegri. 2006. A role for non-muscle myosin II function in furrow maturation in the early zebrafish embryo. Journal of Cell Science. 119:4342-4352.

Lyman-Gingerich, J., Lindeman, R., Putiri, E., Stolzmann, K. and Pelegri, F. 2006. The analysis of axis induction mutant embryos reveals morphogenetic movements associated with zebrafish yolk extension. Developmental Dynamics. 235:2749-2760.

Theusch, E.V., Brown, K.J. and Pelegri, F. 2006. Separate pathways of RNA recruitment lead to the compartmentalization of the zebrafish germ plasm. Developmental Biology. 292:129-141.