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Richard R. Behringer, Ph.D.

Present Title & Affiliation

Primary Appointment

Professor, Department of Genetics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Dual/Joint/Adjunct Appointment

Professor, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, TX

Research Interests

  • Mammalian embryogenesis 
  • Reproductive biology and disease 
  • Stem cell biology 
  • Evolution and development

Our research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that lead to the formation of the mammalian body plan, the genesis of tissues and organs during embryogenesis and the pathology of developmental defects. In addition, we study the genetic mechanisms that result in organ morphology and physiology differences that have evolved between species. We utilize genetic, embryological and comparative approaches.

The mammalian reproductive organs are essential for the continuation of species and are common sites for disease. We are interested in defining the factors that cause the male and female phenotypes, including gonad and reproductive tract differentiation. To facilitate these studies, we have generated transgenic mice expressing novel fluorescent reporters for live-imaging to follow the behaviors of cells during reproductive organ formation. In addition, we are creating mouse models for cancers of the reproductive organs, e.g., the ovary. These mouse models may be useful for understanding the formation of human ovarian cancer and devising therapies.

Stem cells can generate more of themselves (self-renewal) or can produce the different cell types of the body (differentiation). Embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from pre-implantation embryos and have the potential to form any cell type of the body. Adult stem cells are present in our bodies to replenish cells that wear out (for example red blood cells, skin and even neurons). Adult stem cells can give rise to single or multiple cell types. We are currently genetically modifying human ES cells and other types of stem cells to devise future therapies of human disease.

We are also investigating developmental processes in divergent mammalian systems, including marsupials and chiropterans (bats). Mammalian embryogenesis and reproduction are very diverse between species, comparisons provide novel insights for reproduction, embryonic development and organogenesis. We collaborate with Marilyn Renfree (University of Melbourne) using the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) model to study sexual differentiation and limb development. Bats also offer a unique system to study the genetic mechanisms that diversify organogenesis. We have collaborated with John Rasweiler (SUNY Downstate) to establish the molecular embryology of the fruit bat, Carollia perspicillata, and are transferring bat genes into mice for functional studies of limb development. Our wallaby and bats studies are supported by field collections on Kangaroo Island, Australia and the island of Trinidad, respectively.

Rats are large laboratory rodents that are useful for studies of physiology, behavior, and other fields of biology. The rat genome has been sequenced, assembled and annotated. One particularly valuable resource to facilitate studies of mammalian gene function that is sorely lacking in the rat system is a large collection of mutants and a continuous source of new mutations. The ability to easily generate new mutant rat strains and to efficiently identify the mutated genes would significantly advance the use of this primary laboratory animal for biomedical research. We have used coat color-tagged transposons (piggyBac and Sleeping Beauty) to generate transgenic rats for random insertional mutagenesis. Our mutagenesis screen should lead to new rat models of human biology and disease.

View a complete list of Dr. Behringer's publications.
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Office Address

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Genetics Unit 1010
1515 Holcombe Blvd.
Houston, TX 77030
Room Number: S11.8136A
Phone: (713) 834-6327

Education & Training

Degree-Granting Education

1986 University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, PHD, Biology

Postgraduate Training

1989-1990 Postgraduate Training, University of Washington, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Seattle, USA, Dr. Richard D. Palmiter
1986-1989 Postgraduate Training, University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, USA, Dr. Ralph L. Brinster


Academic Appointments

Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA, 1995-1997
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA, 1990-1995

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Original Research Articles

1. Cretekos CJ, Wang Y, Green ED, Martin JF, Rasweiler JJ, Behringer RR. Regulatory divergence modifies limb length between mammals. Genes Dev 22(2):141-51, 1/2008. PMCID: PMC2192750.
2. Chaboissier MC, Kobayashi A, Vidal VI, Lützkendorf S, van de Kant HJ, Wegner M, de Rooij DG, Behringer RR, Schedl A. Functional analysis of Sox8 and Sox9 during sex determination in the mouse. Development 131(9):1891-1901, 5/2004. e-Pub 3/31/2004. PMID: 15056615.
3. Chen CM, Behringer RR. Ovca1 regulates cell proliferation, embryonic development, and tumorigenesis. Genes Dev 18(3):320-332, 2/1/2004. e-Pub 1/26/2004. PMCID: PMC338284.
4. Jamin SP, Arango NA, Mishina Y, Hanks MC, Behringer RR. Requirement of BMPR-1A for Mullerian duct regression during male sexual development. Nat Genet 32(3):408-410, 11/2002. e-Pub 10/7/2002. PMID: 12368913.
5. Arango NA, Lovell-Badge R, Behringer RR. Targeted mutagenesis of the endogenous mouse Mullerian inhibiting substance gene promoter, In vivo definition of genetic pathways of vertebrate sexual development. Cell 99(4):409-419, 11/12/1999. PMID: 10571183.
6. Liu P, Wakamiya M, Shea MJ, Albrecht U, Behringer RR, Bradley A. Requirement for Wnt3 in vertebrate axis formation. Nat Genet 22(4):361-5, 8/1999. PMID: 10431240.
7. Li Y, Behringer RR. Esx1 is an X-chromosome-imprinted regulator of placental development and fetal growth. Nat Genet 20(3):309-311, 11/1998. PMID: 9806555.
8. Mishina Y, Suzuki A, Ueno N, Behringer RR. Bmpr encodes a type I bone morphogenetic protein receptor that is essential for gastrulation during mouse embryogenesis. Genes Dev 9(24):3027-3037, 12/15/1995. PMID: 8543149.
9. Shawlot W, Behringer RR. Requirement for Lim1 in head-organizer function. Nature 374(6521):425-430, 3/30/1995. PMID: 7700351.
10. Chen ZF, Behringer RR. twist is required in head mesenchyme for cranial neural tube morphogenesis. Genes Dev 9(6):686-699, 3/15/1995. PMID: 7729687.

Last updated: 2/18/2016