Erica Hutchins, PhD

Assistant Professor
Cell and Tissue Biology
Research Overview: 

The Hutchins Lab seeks to map how post-transcriptional regulation controls developmental pluripotency and cell fate decisions in vivo, using vertebrate neural crest as a model. 

Neural crest cells are an essential stem cell population in the vertebrate embryo. During development, these cells must undergo coordinated induction, specification, and epithelial—mesenchymal transition (EMT) events to migrate and ultimately develop into a wide range of cell types that contribute to the adult organism.

Dysregulated post-transcriptional regulatory linkages in neural crest can lead to congenital malformations and cancer in humans, and a thorough understanding of the mechanisms underlying these fundamental processes can provide new therapeutic targets for biomedical intervention. 

By leveraging systems-level approaches and cutting-edge developmental biology techniques to understand how neural crest cell state transitions are achieved post-transcriptionally to drive cell fate choices, we can begin to understand how these programs fail during development or may be hijacked during disease.

The major research goals of our laboratory are:

  1. To identify the post-transcriptional regulatory linkages controlling neural crest fate decisions across developmental time and space
  2. To parse the intersection of intrinsic and extrinsic factors with post-transcriptional regulation during neural crest and nervous system development
  3. To leverage post-transcriptional regulatory linkages controlling EMT and migration in neural crest and neural crest-derived cancers

Featured Publications

RNA-binding protein Elavl1/HuR is required for maintenance of cranial neural crest specification. bioRxiv. Hutchins EJ, Chacon J, and Bronner ME.

P-bodies are sites of rapid RNA decay during the neural crest epithelial—mesenchymal transition. bioRxiv. Hutchins EJ, Chacon J, and Bronner ME.

Transcriptomic identification of Draxin-responsive targets during cranial neural crest EMT. Front Physiol. Hutchins EJ, Piacentino ML, and Bronner ME.

Draxin alters laminin organization during basement membrane remodeling to control cranial neural crest EMT. Dev Biol. Hutchins EJ and Bronner ME.

Draxin acts as a molecular rheostat of canonical Wnt signaling to control cranial neural crest EMT. J Cell Biol. Hutchins EJ and Bronner ME.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Developmental & Stem Cell Biology
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Research Summary: 
Post-transcriptional control of cell fate choices during development and disease



"Beyond transcription: How post-transcriptional mechanisms drive neural crest EMT".

Genesis (New York, N.Y. : 2000)

Guzman-Espinoza M, Kim M, Ow C, Hutchins EJ

Temporal changes in plasma membrane lipid content induce endocytosis to regulate developmental epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Piacentino ML, Hutchins EJ, Andrews CJ, Bronner ME

RNA-binding protein Elavl1/HuR is required for maintenance of cranial neural crest specification.


Hutchins EJ, Gandhi S, Chacon J, Piacentino M, Bronner ME

Essential function and targets of BMP signaling during midbrain neural crest delamination.

Developmental biology

Piacentino ML, Hutchins EJ, Bronner ME

Transcriptomic Identification of Draxin-Responsive Targets During Cranial Neural Crest EMT.

Frontiers in physiology

Hutchins EJ, Piacentino ML, Bronner ME