Virginia E. Papaioannou, PhD

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My laboratory, which closed in 2017 due to my retirement, had a long-standing interest in the genetic control of early mammalian development, from the first cleavage of the fertilized zygote through implantation, gastrulation, and early organogenesis. We have used a variety of approaches to study the determination of cell lineages and the interactions of the developing embryo with the maternal environment, taking advantage of both naturally occurring and experimentally induced mutations. A major strength of the laboratory was the combination of classic experimental embryology techniques with molecular biology and targeted mutagenesis. During the past 25 years we have studied extensively a family of transcription factor genes, the T-box gene family. These genes share a conserved DNA-binding motif first found in the Brachyury locus. The genes are highly conserved in evolution and have been implicated in the control of mesoderm formation and in inductive interactions in the organogenesis of organs such as mammary gland, heart, lung, and limbs. Several mutations in human T-box genes have been shown to be responsible for developmental birth defects and by using targeted mutagenesis, we have produced mouse models for the human DiGeorge syndrome (TBX1), the ulnar mammary syndrome (TBX3), the small patella syndrome (TBX4), and spondylocostal dysostosis (TBX6). In addition, we have investigated the role of Tbx6 in the decision between neural and mesodermal fates and left/right body axis determination, and the roles of Tbx2, Tbx3, Tbx4 and Tbx5 in heart, limb, mammary gland and lung development. Our interest is in understanding how these genes control cell fate and tissue specification decisions during early development.

Academic Appointments

  • Special Lecturer in Genetics and Development
  • Professor Emerita of Genetics and Development

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, 1968 Biological Sciences, University of California - Davis
  • PhD, 1972 Genetics, Cambridge University

Committees, Societies, Councils

National/International Committees/Boards
1991 NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health Workshop on Opportunities for Research on Women’s Health; co-chair of panel on Early Developmental Biology

1993 NIH/NIEHS Workshops on Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Early Mammalian Development

1995-1999 NSF Advisory Panel for Developmental Mechanisms

1997-2000 National Academy of Sciences Committee on Developmental Toxicology

1998-1999 NIEHS/National Toxicology Program Expert Registry

2001-2003 NSF Advisory Panel for Developmental Mechanisms

2000-2006 International Society for Differentiation, Board of Directors

2002-2005 Harvey Society Council

2004 NIH/Dev 1 Special Emphasis Review Panel

2004 NICHD Workshop of Structural Birth Defects

2004-2006 International Society for Differentiation, Publication committee

2004-2007 International Society for Stem Cell Research, Advisory Board

2006-2010 NIH/NIGMS BRT-B Biomedical Research and Research Training Review Panel

2006-2011 NIH Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP) Panel of Scientific Consultants

2011 NICHD Scientific Vision Development Workshop

2012-pres. JAX Gene Expression Database (GXD) for Mouse Development, Advisory Board

2013, 2015 NIH Genetics of Health and Disease Study Section ad hoc member

2015 NIH KOMP2 Phenotyping Focus Group

2016, 2017 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship Advisory Panel

2018 -pres Chair, Steering Committee, NIH Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program

Columbia University Committees

1993-pres. Training Committee for Genetics and Development; Chair (1994-2016)

1995-1998 Operations and Steering Committees, Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular & Biophysical Studies

1996-1999 Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

1996-2007 Health Science Joint Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest

1997-2017 Advisory Committee to the Dean of the Medical School on Honors and Awards

1998 Review Committee for the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics

2001 Task Force on Human Genetics

2001-2007 Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

2004-2005 Steering Committee for Accreditation of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

2004-2005 Accreditation Subcommittee on Mission and Assessment

2009 Comparative Medicine Director Search Committee; Committee Chair

2009 Animal Faculty Advisory Committee

2009 Charles and Marie Robertson Professorship of Obstetrics and Gynecology Search

2009 Women’s Reproductive Health Research Ad Hoc Committee for Program Oversight

2009-2011 University Senate

2009-2012 Campus Planning & Physical Development Committee

2010-2013 Presidential Awards for Outstanding Teaching Committee

2011 Committee for Professional Development

2013-2016 Columbia University Provost’s Tenure Review Advisory Committee (TRAC)

Professional Organizations and Society memberships

American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Society for Cell Biology

Genetics Society of America

International Society for Developmental Biology

International Society for Differentiation

International Society for Stem Cell Research

New York Academy of Science

The Harvey Society

Scientific Journal Editorships

1997-2003 North American Editor, Differentiation (1997-2000), Senior Editor (2000-2003)

2001-2014 Associate Editor, Molecular Reproduction and Development

2002-2003 Managing Editor, Mechanisms of Development

2003-2009 Editor, Development

Editorial Boards

2003-pres. Editorial Board, Developmental Dynamics

2004-2007 Editorial Board, Stem Cell Reviews

2009-pres. Editorial Board, Development

2011-pres. Faculty of 1000, Faculty Member

2015-pres. Advisory Board, Reproductive Biomedicine & Society

Honors & Awards

Burroughs Wellcome Visiting Professorship, NIMR,

Dean's Distinguished Lecture in the Basic Sciences, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University,

Saban Research Institute Distinguished Lecturer, Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles,

Rosa Beddington Lecture, Mouse Molecular Genetics Meeting,



Genetic control of mammalian development from peri-implantation stages through organogenesis; determination of the role of T-box genes in development, using embryonic stem-cell technology and targeted mutagenesis.

Selected Publications

Papaioannou, V. E. 2016. Concepts of cell lineage in mammalian embryos. Current Topics in Developmental Biology. Essays on Developmental Biology - 2016, 117:185-197. Epub 2016 Jan 21. PMC47934103.

Washkowitz AJ, Schall C, Zhang K, Floss T, Mager J and Papaioannou VE: (2015) The role of Mga in the survival of pluripotent cells during peri-implantation development. Development 142: 31-40

Papaioannou VE: (2014) The T-box gene family: Emerging roles in development, stem cells and cancer. Development 141: 3819-3833

Concepcion D and Papaioannou VE: (2014) Nature and extent of left/right axis defects in Twis/Twis mutant embryos. Developmental Dynamics 243: 2697-2702

Leitch HG, Okamura D, Durcova-Hills G, Gardner RL, Matsui Y and Papaioannou VE : (2014) On the fate of primordial germ cells injected into early mouse embryos. Developmental Biology 385: 155-159