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Gibson Lab

Our mission is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying development, evolution, and regeneration.

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Research Summary

How do organisms develop?

Research Areas

Development and Regeneration, Genetics and Genomics, Evolutionary Biology, Systems Biology


Fruit flies, Sea anemones

The Gibson Lab uses a broad range of contemporary approaches, from molecular genetics to computational modeling, to investigate the cellular and molecular basis for key events during animal development. Over the last decade the lab has primarily focused on the fruit fly Drosophila and the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Currently the lab is developing new approaches to study the biology of corals, close relatives of Nematostella.

At Stowers, the Gibson Lab continues to study Drosophila and has branched out to investigate development and cell biology in Nematostella, a member of the phylum Cnidaria, which includes jellyfish and corals. The team leveraged their Drosophila expertise to pioneer rigorous new experimental approaches in Nematostella, applying genetic methods to gain functional insights. They were the first lab to successfully use CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in Nematostella, laying the groundwork for researchers to apply the method in anemones and related cnidarians.

Gibson plans to expand his research on reef-building corals, which account for 25% of global marine biodiversity, in addition to continued research with Drosophila and Nematostella.

Principal Investigator

Matt Gibson

Investigator and Dean of the Graduate School

Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Get to know the lab

Fruit Fly

The lab uses the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to study how cells are organized into sheets called epithelial layers, which provides a structural context for understanding animal development and evolution. The highly developed research toolkit available for Drosophila allows interrogation of how epithelial cell shape and proliferation are regulated at a molecular level.

Sea Anemone

“The key attribute that attracted me to study the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis is the potential to make discoveries with profound implications for understanding evolution. It’s like taking a time machine back 600 million years and being able to ascertain how ancient biology worked. That’s incredibly powerful on its own, but due to a striking degree of evolutionary conservation, Nematostella also offers the potential for new insights into the functioning of the human genome.” – Matt Gibson


The lab recently added corals, a close relative of sea anemones and jellyfish, to its assembly of research organisms. This marine Cnidarian will allow further research into animal development, body patterning, comparative biology, and evolutionary biology.

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Our Team

Featured Publications

The architecture and operating mechanism of a cnidarian stinging organelle​

Karabulut A, McClain M, Rubinstein B, Sabin KZ, McKinney SA, Gibson MC. Nat Commun. 2022;13:3494. doi: 10.1038/s41467-41022-31090.

Impact of cilia-related genes on mitochondrial dynamics during Drosophila spermatogenesis

Bauerly E, Akiyama T, Staber C, Yi K, Gibson MC. Dev Biol. 2022;482:17-27.

Plasticity in parental effects confers rapid larval thermal tolerance in the estuarine anemone Nematostella vectensis

Rivera HE, Chen CY, Gibson MC, Tarrant AM. J Exp Biol. 2021;224: jeb236745. doi: 236710.231242/jeb.236745.

Cell-Size Pleomorphism Drives Aberrant Clone Dispersal in Proliferating Epithelia

Ramanathan SP, Krajnc M, Gibson MC. Dev Cell. 2019;51:49-61 e44.

Cell-Cycle-Coupled Oscillations in Apical Polarity and Intercellular Contact Maintain Order in Embryonic Epithelia

Ragkousi K, Marr K, McKinney S, Ellington L, Gibson MC. Curr Biol. 2017;27:1381-1386.

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