The overall goal of my research program is to understand the effects of environmental chemicals on development and human health. This program comprises bioinformatics and experimental approaches. The former involves development of the publicly available Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD; http://ctdbase.org/), which provides integrated data about chemical-gene/protein interactions and chemical- and gene-disease relationships, thus enabling scientists to develop novel hypotheses about the origins of environmentally influenced diseases. The experimental approach uses zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a vertebrate model to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying craniofacial abnormalities that result from developmental exposure to the ubiquitous environmental contaminant, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD - the most toxic form of dioxin.
Bioinformatics: The Comparative Toxicogenomics Database
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are more than 75,000 chemicals used in commerce today. However, the toxic potential of these chemicals and the mechanisms by which they affect living organisms are not well understood. Many chemicals are toxic because they disrupt the normal expression of genes or protein functions. To promote understanding about which genes and proteins are targeted by environmental chemicals, MDIBL has developed the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD). CTD is community-supported and publicly available through a WWW interface. It is the first resource to: 1) describe associations between specific genes, proteins and toxic agents; 2) provide gene and protein sequences from diverse species with a focus on aquatic and mammalian organisms; and 3) offer a range of computational tools for comparative sequence analysis. These features provide a collective perspective of existing data and facilitate cross-species comparisons of genes and proteins that are affected by toxic agents. The goal is to promote understanding about molecular mechanisms of toxicity, explain why some chemicals are only toxic in certain species, and provide insight about the complex interactions between the environment and human health.