University of Southern California

USC Neuroscience

Gage DeKoeyer Crump


Associate Professor
Dept Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
Director, Program in Development, Stem Cells, and Regenerative Medicine

Research Topics

  1. Vertebrate Head Skeleton Development
  2. Neural Crest Specification
  3. Skeletal Regeneration

Research Overview

Vertebrates come in a dazzling array of shapes and sizes, their outward appearances largely determined by their skeletons. In particular, the cartilages and bones of the face develop from a vertebrate-specific population of neural crest cells that form a series of nearly identical pharyngeal arches in every vertebrate. How then do these cells organize into the facial features appropriate for each animal? This question is fundamental for understanding not only how animal diversity is generated but also why development goes awry in human birth defects affecting the face.

My laboratory studies the cellular basis of skeletal shaping in zebrafish because their embryos are transparent and develop rapidly, thus allowing us to directly observe development in living animals. By making high-resolution time-lapse recordings of transgenic zebrafish, in which a green fluorescent protein has been engineered specifically into skeletal precursor cells, we can specifically follow the cells that make cartilage and bone. In addition, we have isolated several mutant strains that have specific defects in the facial skeleton, and these mutants will allow us to understand the molecular basis of skeletal patterning.

During neural crest development, cells must decide whether to make ectodermal derivatives, such as neurons and glia, or mesoderm-like derivatives such as cartilage and bone. In lpy and myx mutants, neural crest cells lose the ability to make skeletal crest derivatives, yet crest-derived neurons and glia develop normally. By studying these mutants, we hope to better understand the molecular signals that allow neural crest cells to form various derivatives.

In mutants for the Alagille Syndrome gene homolog, Jag1b, the upper face is transformed to resemble a duplicate version of the lower face. By characterizing this mutant, we are learning about the molecular signals that specify distinct parts of the head skeleton. In addition, facial patterning involves intricate crosstalk between the endodermal and ectodermal epithelia and the preskeletal mesenchyme. In order to better understand this crosstalk, we are creating libraries of transgenic lines that will allow us to manipulate signaling in both the epithelia and the mesenchyme at specific times of development.

In addition, we are interested in how the facial skeleton can rebuild itself following injury. Zebrafish is an excellent model for regeneration, as it can regenerate most of its organs throughout adulthood. We find that the jaw can also regenerate, and we have identified neural crest cells that persist into the adult. We are currently pursuing several strategies to isolate and characterize the neural-crest-derived stem cells that can regenerate the facial skeleton.

Contact Information

Web Sites:
Crump Lab
PIBBS Faculty Page
Mailing Address:
1425 San Pablo St.
Broad CIRM Center Room 403
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Office Location:
BCC 406
Office Phone:
(323) 442-2693
Lab Location:
BCC 403
Lab Phone:
(323) 442-4040


  • Sc.B. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Brown University
  • B.A. Hispanic Literature, Brown University
  • Ph.D. Cell Biology, UCSF
  • Postdoc, Developmental Biology, University of Oregon

Research Images

Selected Publications

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Choe, C.P., Collazo, A., Trinh, L.A., Pan, L., Moens, C.B., and Crump, J.G. (2013). Wnt-dependent epithelial transitions drive pharyngeal pouch formation. Developmental Cell, 24, 296-309. -PubMed

Cox, S., Kim, H., An, W., and Crump, J.G. (2012). An Essential Role of Variant Histone H3.3 in Ectomesenchyme Potential of the Cranial Neural Crest. PLoS Genetics 8, e1002938.


Das, A. and Crump, J.G. (2012). Bmps and Id2a act upstream of Twist1 to restrict ectomesenchyme potential of the cranial neural crest. PLoS Genetics 5, e1002710.


Balczerski, B., Matsutani, M., Castillo, P., Osborne, N., Stainier, D., and Crump. J.G. (2012). Analysis of Sphingosine-1-phosphate signaling mutants reveals endodermal requirements for the growth but not dorsoventral patterning of jaw skeletal precursors. Developmental Biology, in press.

Zuniga, E., Rippen, M.,Alexander, C. Schilling, T.F., and Crump, J.G. (2011). Gremlin2 regulates distinct roles of Bmp and Endothelin1 signaling in dorsoventral patterning of the facial skeleton. Development, 138, 5147-5156.

Alexander, C., Zuniga, E.,Blitz, I.L., Wada, N., Le Pabic, P., Javidan, Y., Zhang, T., Cho, K.W.Y., Crump,J.G., and Schilling, T.F. (2011). Combinatorial roles for Bmps and Endothelin1 in patterning the dorsal-ventral axis of the craniofacial skeleton. Development, 138, 5135-5146.

Zuniga, E., Stellabotte,F., and Crump, J.G. (2010). Jagged-Notch signaling ensures dorsal skeletal identity in the vertebrate face. Development 137, 1843-1852. -PubMed

Crump JG, Swartz ME, Eberhart JK, Kimmel CB. (2006) Moz-dependent Hox expression controls segment-specific fate maps of skeletal precursors in the face. Development. 133(14):2661-9. -PubMed

Eberhart JK, Swartz ME, Crump JG, Kimmel CB. (2006) Early Hedgehog signaling from neural to oral epithelium organizes anterior craniofacial development. Development. 133(6):1069-77. -PubMed

Yan YL, Willoughby J, Liu D, Crump JG, Wilson C, Miller CT, Singer A, Kimmel C, Westerfield M, Postlethwait JH. (2005) A pair of Sox: distinct and overlapping functions of zebrafish sox9 co-orthologs in craniofacial and pectoral fin development. Development. 132(5):1069-83. -PubMed

Crump JG, Maves L, Lawson ND, Weinstein BM, Kimmel CB. (2004) An essential role for Fgfs in endodermal pouch formation influences later craniofacial skeletal patterning. Development. 131(22):5703-16. -PubMed

Crump JG, Swartz ME, Kimmel CB. (2004) An integrin-dependent role of pouch endoderm in hyoid cartilage development. PLoS Biol. 2(9):E244 -PubMed

Kimmel CB, Ullmann B, Walker M, Miller CT, Crump JG. (2003) Endothelin 1-mediated regulation of pharyngeal bone development in zebrafish. Development. 130(7):1339-51. -PubMed