University of California, Riverside

School of Medicine



Martín I. García-Castro


Martín I. García-Castro

Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences

Martín I. García-Castro

University of California, Riverside
Riverside, CA 92521

Tel: (951) 827-7251
E-mail: martin.garcia-castro@ucr.edu
Office: 203 Health Science Research Building

Education and Training

  • B.S., Biology and Molecular Biology, UNAM, Mexico, 1987
  • M.S., Biomedical Research, UNAM, Mexico, 1991
  • Ph.D., Developmental Biology, University of Cambridge, UK, 1995
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Caltech, 1996-2001

Research Summary

Neural crest cells (NCCs) arise early in development, migrate extensively, and give rise to an impressive array of diverse derivatives, including melanocytes, peripheral neurons and glia, heart-valve cells, and craniofacial muscle, adipose cells, odontoblasts, bone and cartilage. Thus, NCCs provide an excellent platform for studying induction, specification, multipotency, fate restriction, and cell migration. NCCs strong contribution to craniofacial structures endows them with a unique place in vertebrate diversity and evolution. Additionally, NCC defects are responsible for various birth defects and illnesses (e.g. cleft lip/palate, Hirschsprung and Waardenburg syndromes, aggressive cancers like melanoma and neuroblastoma, etc) and therefore improving our understanding of NCC biology offers a great potential for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

Our laboratory focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the formation and differentiation potential of NCCs. We aim to uncover and characterize the time, tissues and molecular pathways regulating NCC formation, and to assess the effects of the early environment on NCC differentiation potential. We have pioneered work analyzing earlier events in the formation of NCC in amniotes. We identified Pax7 as a critical transcription factor during early avian neural crest development, and are now investigating its mechanism of action (its regulation, splice variants, interacting partners and their roles). We are using a pan-amniote approach to identify critical mechanisms in early NC development. Our research challenges current dogmas and has established new paradigms for studying NC development in diverse species (chick, mouse, rabbit, and human).

Our work in birds uses chick and quail embryos to identify the earliest events in NC specification and induction, though explant cultures, fate map studies, grafting experiments, expression analysis, and single cell studies. We are also invested in determining the transcriptional effectors of the signaling pathways we have previously identified as critical for NC induction (BMP, Wnt and FGF).

In mouse embryos we are establishing the spatiotemporal expression of early NC markers including critical transcription factors and determining the contribution of Pax7 progenitors to NC derivatives using different transgenic approaches.

We have adopted the rabbit as an alternative model for mammalian NC development and are investigating basic profiles of expression of NC markers, and for the first time in a mammal, we are simultaneously investigating NC specification/induction and signaling requirements.

To deliver an effective translational approach to human health issues we have embraced human NC studies. Importantly, we have developed a surrogate model of human NC based on human embryonic stem cells, infused by our understanding of early NC biology in model organisms.

Selected Publications

  • Vadasz, S., Marquez, J., Tulloch, M., Shylo, N.A. & García-Castro, M.I. (2013). Pax7 is regulated by cMyb during early neural crest development through a novel enhancer. Development, 140, 3691-3702. PMCID:PMC3742149
  • Luan, Z., Liu, Y., Stuhlmiller, T., Marquez, J. & García-Castro, M.I.(2013). SUMOylation of Pax7 is essential for neural crest and muscle development. Cell Mol Life Sci, 70:1793-1806 PMID: 23247248; PMCID: PMC3628956
  • Yardley, N. & García-Castro, M.I. (2012). FGF Signaling Transforms Non-neural Ectoderm into Neural Crest. Developmental Biology,372: 166-177. Doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.09.006 PMCID: PMC3541687
  • Murdoch, B., DelConte, C. García-Castro, M.I. (2012). Pax7 Lineage Contributions to the Mammalian Neural Crest. PLoS ONE, 7 (7): e41089. Doi:10.1371/journal.phone.0041089 PMID: 22848431
  • Stuhlmiller, T. & García-Castro, M.I. (2012). FGF/MAPK signaling is required in the gastrula epiblast for avian neural crest induction. Development, 139:289-300, Selected and recommended by Faculty of a Thousand.PMCID: PMC3213094
  • Betters, E., Liu, Y., Kjaeldgaard, A., Sundström, E. & García-Castro, M. I. (2010). Analysis of early human neural crest development. Developmental Biology, 344 (2): 578-592. PMCID: PMC2927129
  • Murdoch, B., DelConte, C. & García-Castro, M. I. (2010) “Embryonic Pax7-expressing progenitors contribute multiple cell types to the postnatal olfactory epithelium”J. Neuroscience30: 9523-9532 PMCID: PMC2920205
  • Basch, M., Bronner-Fraser, M. & García-Castro, M.I. (2006). Specification of the neural crest occurs during gastrulation and requires Pax7. Nature, 441:218-222. Featured in Research Highlights in Nature Reviews/ Neuroscience 7:1 and Selected by three reviewers for Faculty of a 1000 as a must read.PMID: 16688176

Reviews & Book chapters:

  • Betters, Murdoch, Leung, García-Castro (2013) “­Human neural crest cells and stem cell-based models” Book chapter 18, for “Neural Crest Cells: Evolution, Development and Disease” Elsevier, edited by P. Trainor. ISBN: 9780124017306
  • Stuhlmiller, T. & García-Castro, M.I. (2012). Current perspectives of the signaling pathways directing neural crest induction. Cell Mol Life Sci., 69(22):3715-37 PMCID: PMC:3478512
  • García-Castro, M.I. (2011). “Neural Crest Cells” Book Chapter 3, "Topics in Animal and Plant Development: From Cell Differentiation to Morphogenesis, 55-74 ISBN: 978-81-7895-506-3 Editor: J. Chimal-Monroy Transworld Research Network.

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