Cynthia Loomis, MD, PhD

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Assistant Professor, Depts. of Pathology, Dermatology, and Cell Biology

MD 1990, PhD 1993 - New York University

Loomis Lab

Contact Information

615 Medical Sciences Building
New York University School of Medicine
550 First Ave. New York, NY 10016
Tel.: (212) 263-6827
Fax: (212) 263-8211

Limb patterning in mouse


The normal development of both limbs and epidermal appendages (nails, hairs and sweat glands) requires the correct execution of complex signaling cascades between mesoderm and ectoderm. We are interested in delineating the genes critical for regulating these processes and defining the mechanisms by which they function in man using mouse as a model system. In our analyses, we combine standard loss-of-function (knock-out) and gain-of function (transgenic) strategies; we also utilize a novel approach that permits us to deliver retroviral vectors to mid-gestation mouse tissues, thereby allowing us to temporally and spatially restrict the impact of our genetic manipulations.

Genetic and tissue transplantation studies have demonstrated that three distinct signaling regions direct patterning and growth of the vertebrate limb. Proximal to distal outgrowth depends on fibroblast growth factor signaling from the apical ectodermal ridge (AER), a thickened rim of ectoderm along the distal limb margin. The zone of polarizing activity (ZPA), a specialized cluster of mesenchymal cells at the posterior limb margin, directs anterior-posterior patterning via sonic hedgehog signaling. We and others have shown that dorsal-ventral limb patterning relies on choreographed interactions of regulatory molecules that include the signaling molecule Wnt7a in the dorsal limb ectoderm, the LIM-homeodomain protein Lmx1b in the dorsal limb mesenchyme and the homeobox transcription factor Engrailed-1 (En1) in the ventral limb ectoderm. Formation and maintenance of these distinct signaling zones is mutually interdependent. Our current work focuses on delineating the pathways important in directing early dorsal-ventral limb patterning as well as AER morphogenesis. Specifically, we are examining the mechanisms by which En1 and Shh regulate AER formation and maintenance.

As a pediatric dermatologist, I am also interested in studying the functions of these regulatory genes in the development of skin appendages. Many of the genes critical in regulating outgrowth of the limbs are re-used during later embryogenesis to direct downgrowth and differentiation of epidermal appendages. For example, our recent studies indicate that ectodermally expressed En1 is critical for promoting eccrine gland morphogenesis and for repressing nail development on palmar/plantar skin both pre- and postnatally. In general, skin appendages are ideal mammalian model systems for investigating developmental regulatory cascades because of their multiplicity and easy accessibility. Moreover, since each type of skin appendage undergoes similar, though unique, morphogenetic events, appendages provide an excellent opportunity for defining the impact of subtle differences in combinatorial genetic regulation on tissue morphogenesis. In addition, these studies will also aid in the identification of candidate genes that might be mutated in the over 150 different forms of ectodermal dysplasias, clinical syndromes characterized by defects in the development of ectodermal appendages, as well as in congenital disorders that display both skin and limb anomalies.

Selected Publications: 


  • Takeo, Makoto; Chou, Wei Chin; Sun, Qi; Lee, Wendy; Rabbani, Piul; Loomis, Cynthia; Taketo, M Mark; Ito, Mayumi. Wnt activation in nail epithelium couples nail growth to digit regeneration. Nature 2013 Jul;499(7457):228-232. PMID: 23760480
  • Deckelbaum, Ron A; Holmes, Greg; Zhao, Zhicheng; Tong, Chunxiang; Basilico, Claudio; Loomis, Cynthia A. Regulation of cranial morphogenesis and cell fate at the neural crest-mesoderm boundary by engrailed 1.  Development 2012 Apr;139(7):1346-1358. PMID: 22395741
  • Loomis, Cynthia A; Curchoe, Carol Lynn. Method for tracking core-contributed publications. Journal of biomolecular techniques 2012 Dec;23(4):122-127. PMID: 23204927
  • Brownell, Isaac; Guevara, Elizabeth; Bai, C Brian; Loomis, Cynthia A; Joyner, Alexandra L. Nerve-derived sonic hedgehog defines a niche for hair follicle stem cells capable of becoming epidermal stem cells. Cell Stem Cell 2011 May 6;8(5):552-565. PMID: 21549329
  • Harsha A; Stojadinovic O; Brem H; Sehara-Fujisawa A; Wewer U; Loomis CA; Blobel CP; Tomic-Canic M. "ADAM12: a potential target for the treatment of chronic wounds". Journal of Molecular Medicine (Berlin). 2008; 86: 961. PMID: 18604515
  • Harsha, A; Stojadinovic, O; Loomis, CA; Blobel, CP; Tomic-Canic, M. "ADAM12: a potential target for treatment of chronic wounds". Journal of investigative dermatology. 2007; 127: S37. PMID: N/A.
  • Levy, David E; Loomis, Cynthia A. "STAT3 signaling and the hyper-IgE syndrome". New England journal of medicine. 2007; 357: 1655. PMID: 17881746
  • Deckelbaum RA; Majithia A; Booker T; Henderson JE; Loomis CA. "The homeoprotein engrailed 1 has pleiotropic functions in calvarial intramembranous bone formation and remodeling". Development. 2006; 133: 63. PMID: 16319118
  • Pechar, D; Kraus, P; Loomis, CA. "Conditional ablation of epidermal En1 reveals a postnatal regulatory role". Journal of investigative dermatology. 2006; 126: 98. PMID: N/A.