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Sauka-Spengler Lab

Our focus is on decoding the gene regulatory networks involved in cell function of the neural crest, heart, and nervous system to uncover the mechanisms underpinning inflammation and regeneration and how they have evolved.

Research Summary

What controls gene regulatory networks?

Research Areas

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


Zebrafish, Chicks, Sea lamprey

The Sauka-Spengler Lab develops and applies novel methods and technologies to study the molecular interactions that determine cell function in the neural crest, nervous system, and heart. The lab focuses on decoding gene regulatory networks involved in development, regeneration, disease, and evolution.

The lab investigates the gene regulatory circuitry involved in early steps of neural crest formation, the mechanisms and molecules that control the potential fate of neural crest cells, and the regenerative capacity of these cells in chicks, zebrafish, and sea lamprey.

The Sauka-Spengler Lab analyzes additional gene regulatory networks responsible for regulation of the neural crest, blood-forming cells, and other processes such as injury- and cancer-induced inflammation and organ regeneration.

The lab also researches how species-specific features have emerged during evolution and which mechanistic changes in gene regulatory programs of invertebrates led to this evolution. They employ comparative studies across animal species, using systems-level approaches to align gene regulatory circuitries obtained at single-cell resolution and computational, statistical, and AI-based methods to integrate the data.

Principal Investigator

Tatjana Sauka-Spengler


Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Get to know the lab


A primary research focus of the Sauka-Spengler Lab is on neural crest development in chick, zebrafish, and sea lamprey research organisms. In chicks, the lab investigates chromatin dynamics and architecture during early neural crest cell development along with the gene regulatory network involved in Hirschsprung Disease.

Why Stowers?

For Tatjana Sauka-Spengler, moving her lab to Stowers means being able to ask questions that she has never been able to. Listen as she explains more.

Featured Publications

Multi-layered transcriptional control of cranial neural crest development

Candido-Ferreira IL, Lukoseviciute M, Sauka-Spengler T. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2022;S1084-9521:00239-7.

Cellular plasticity in the neural crest and cancer

Hu Z, Sauka-Spengler T. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2022;75:101928.

The Cranial Neural Crest in a Multiomics Era

Chong-Morrison V, Sauka-Spengler T. Front Physiol. 2021;12:634440.

Reconstruction of the Global Neural Crest Gene Regulatory Network In Vivo

Williams RM, Candido-Ferreira I, Repapi E, Gavriouchkina D, Senanayake U, Ling ITC, Telenius J, Taylor S, Hughes J, Sauka-Spengler T. Dev Cell. 2019;51:255-276.e7.

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