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Gibson Lab

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

Research Summary

How do organisms develop?

Research Areas

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


Sea anemones

The Gibson Lab uses a broad range of contemporary techniques—from genome editing to virtual spatial transcriptomics—to investigate the fundamental cellular and molecular bases for key events during animal evolution. Over the last decade the lab has primarily focused on the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. Currently, the lab is also developing new approaches to study the biology of corals, close relatives of Nematostella.

At Stowers, the Gibson Lab investigates the developmental and regenerative cell biology of Nematostella, a member of the phylum Cnidaria that includes jellyfish and corals. The team has leveraged their previous expertise in Drosophila genetics to pioneer rigorous new experimental approaches in Nematostella, applying genetic methods to gain functional insights.  Among numerous technical advances, they were the first lab to successfully use CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing and shRNA-mediated knockdown in these animals, laying the groundwork for researchers to apply these methods in related cnidarians.

The Gibson Lab is currently extending its research focus into the biology of reef-building corals—iconic colonial cnidarians that account for 25% of global marine biodiversity. For these efforts, the team utilizes two coral species, the Pacific Rice Coral, Montipora capitata, and the Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis, in addition to continued research with Nematostella.

Principal Investigator

Matt Gibson

Investigator and Dean of the Graduate School

Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Portrait of Matt Gibson

Get to know the lab

Starlet 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

Rice and Staghorn Coral

The lab recently added two species of corals to its experimental repetoire, the Pacific Rice Coral Montipora capitata, and the Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis. Establishment of these animals in a laboratory setting will open up exciting new possibilities for elucidating the mechanisms of coral-algal symbiosis while providing new comparative systems for understanding fundamental aspects of developmental, stem cell, and regenerative biology.

Group of people outside with fountain in background

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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