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The specialized functions of differentiated cell types in complex, multi-cellular
organisms are the result of specific expression of subsets of genes present in the
genome. The processes that establish and maintain these patterns of expression begin
in the earliest developmental stages. We are interested in the combinatorial diversity of
the molecular interactions that control cell-specific gene expression. The members of
the family of steroid hormone receptors have long been an important model for the
combinations of protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions underlying control of
gene expression in specific cell types. These receptors behave as ligand-induced
activators and repressors of gene transcription, which have varied, important functions
in development, metabolism, and reproduction throughout a wide range of
evolutionarily-diverse species. The tools for monitoring changes in gene expression in
response to steroid hormones, as well as in response to other external stimuli, can also
be used to characterize pathological changes in cells and tissues; and thus become
powerful diagnostic tools.