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Senior Investigator

Mary Lilly, Ph.D.

Section on Gamete Development

Building 35 Room 1C-917
Convent Drive
Bethesda MD 20892
Office: 301-435-8428

Dr. Mary Lilly received her Ph.D. in Biology from Yale University. In 1992 she joined the laboratory of Dr. Allan Spradling at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Department of Embryology, for her postdoctoral training. Dr. Lilly was recruited to the Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch of NICHD in 1998. Currently she is the head of the Section on Gamete Development.

The long-term goal of our laboratory is to understand how the cell-cycle events of meiosis are coordinated with the developmental events of gametogenesis. Chromosome mis-segregation during female meiosis is the leading cause of miscarriages and birth defects in humans. Recent evidence suggests that many meiotic errors occur downstream of defects in oocyte growth and/or the hormonal signaling pathways that drive differentiation of the oocyte. Thus, an understanding of how meiotic progression and gamete differentiation are coordinated during oogenesis is essential to studies in both reproductive biology and medicine. We use the genetically tractable model organism Drosophila melanogaster to examine how meiotic progression is both coordinated with and instructed by the developmental program of the egg.

In mammals, studies on the early stages of oogenesis face serious technical challenges in that entry into the meiotic cycle, meiotic recombination, and the initiation of the highly conserved prophase I arrest all occur during embryogenesis. In contrast, in Drosophila these critical events of early oogenesis all take place continuously within the adult female. Easy access to the early stages of oogenesis, coupled with the available genetic and molecular genetic tools, makes Drosophila an excellent model for studies on meiotic progression and oocyte development.

To understand the regulatory inputs that control early meiotic progression, we are working to determine how the oocyte initiates and then maintains the meiotic cycle within the challenging environment of the ovarian cyst. Our studies focus on questions that are relevant to the development of all animal oocytes. What strategies does the oocyte use to protect itself from inappropriate DNA replication? How does the oocyte inhibit mitotic activity before meiotic maturation and the full growth and development of the egg? How does cell-cycle status within the ovarian cyst influence the differentiation of the oocyte? To answer these questions, we have undertaken studies to determine the basic cell-cycle program of the developing ovarian cyst.

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  • 1) Cai W, Wei Y, Jarnik M, Reich J, Lilly MA. (2016)
  • The GATOR2 Component Wdr24 Regulates TORC1 Activity and Lysosome Function.
  • PLoS Genet., 12(5): e1006036.
  • 2) Wei Y, Lilly MA. (2014)
  • The TORC1 inhibitors Nprl2 and Nprl3 mediate an adaptive response to amino-acid starvation in Drosophila.
  • Cell Death Differ., 21(9):1460-8.
  • 3) Senger S, Csokmay J, Akbar T, Jones TI, Sengupta P, Lilly MA. (2011)
  • The nucleoporin Seh1 forms a complex with Mio and serves an essential tissue-specific function in Drosophila oogenesis.
  • Development, 138(10): 2133-42.
  • 4) Narbonne-Reveau K, Senger S, Pal M, Herr A, Richardson HE, Asano M, Deak P, Lilly MA. (2008)
  • APC/CFzr/Cdh1 promotes cell cycle progression during the Drosophila endocycle.
  • Development, 135(8): 1451-61.
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