Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Biological Sciences

Content Description

1 online resource (xviii, 319 pages) : PDF file, illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Melinda Larsen

Committee Members

Susan LaFlamme, Jamie Rusconi, John Schmidt, Ben Szaro


actomyosin contraction, basement membrane, cytoskeleton, fibronectin, PAR proteins, salivary gland, Salivary glands, Membrane, Basement, Morphogenesis, Actomyosin, Fibronectins

Subject Categories

Biology | Cell Biology | Developmental Biology


Branching morphogenesis is a developmental mechanism utilized by many organs, including the salivary gland, lung, kidney, and mammary gland, to increase the epithelial surface area for secretion or absorption. The embryonic submandibular salivary gland (SMG) is a classic model for studying tissue morphogenesis in three dimensions ex vivo. Salivary gland development requires distinct but overlapping processes: morphogenesis, the actual physical rearrangement of cells into complex three dimensional structures, and cytodifferentiation, the process by which these cells begin to take on their own specialized function. Polarization, or the organization of cells into a cohesive tissue structure, also occurs concurrently during organ development and is a central aspect of overall tissue architecture. The overall aim of this thesis project was to investigate the role of Rho kinase (ROCK 1) in both the morphogenesis and tissue organization of the embryonic salivary gland. My overall global hypothesis is that basement membrane (BM) dynamics regulated by ROCK-mediated signaling are a critical component of SMG organogenesis, both during the early morphogenesis and polarization stages.