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Brenda Rongish, PhD


Publications: PubMed

Research Overview

I am part of a Computational Imaging Group - which also includes two other PIs - Dr. Charles Little and Dr. Andras Czirok. Research in my lab is interdisciplinary and focuses on the dynamic nature of early avian cardiovascular morphogenesis. Quail embryos, like humans, are amniotes - with high performance four-chambered hearts. Although congenital heart disease is known to account for 25% of all birth defects and is the leading cause of death in children less than 1 year of age, traditional molecular studies of heart development have been unsuccessful in identifying genetic factors that contribute to the majority of congenital heart defects. During cardiovascular development, precursor cells move, and their associated ECM is passively displaced because of individual cell motility and/or the motion of entire sheets of cells. To study these dynamic molecules we use automated microscopes and fluorescent probes to perform time-lapse imaging of avian cardiovascular morphogenesis. QuickTime movies provide a way to observe developmental processes, while collaborations with biomedical engineers and physicists allow precise computational analyses of both cell and ECM behaviors (trajectories, velocities, directed vs. random motility of cells). For more details and to view an example time-lapse movie see:

Current areas of research interest:

Q791B_vector image
Motion analysis of cardiac precursors during tubular heart morphogenesis

Our group has shown that cardiac precursors (endocardial and myocardial) move with their nearby extracellular matrix, the milieu that surrounds the cells, from the primary heart field to the anterior, ventral midline to form a tubular heart - comprised of an endocardium and myocardium separated by cardiac jelly ECM. We have a strong interest in the role of endodermal movements (during foregut elongation) and other tissue deformations in this process. Modeling and computer simulations allow testing of assumptions based on in vivo observations.

CDL VEGF figure
VEGF and fusion/elongation of the tubular heart

Targeted mutations of VEGF and VEGF receptors in animal models result in embryonic lethal phenotypes due to the failure to form a functional vascular system and aberrant cardiac organogenesis. Our ability to measure motility of endothelial, endocardial, and myocardial precursors, as well as to observe gross cardiac phenotypes following experimental manipulation of VEGF signaling, allow a careful analysis of the role of VEGF during early heart morphogenesis.

sAA029C image
scaRNAs and cardiac anomalies (collaboration with Dr. Doug Bittel, Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO)

Doug Bittel and his research group at CMH are leading a collaborative effort with my group to study scaRNAs - a subset of small nucleolar RNAs that are essential for the biochemical modification and maturation of small nuclear RNAs (spliceosomal RNAs). We are studying the role of these noncoding RNAs in cardiac development. Dr. Bittel's group is exploring the role played by scaRNAs in spliceosomal stability and function and the relationship to congenital heart defects such as Tetralogy of Fallot. My group uses our imaging system and computational analyses to characterize the role of key scaRNAs in regulating cardiac precursor cell movements and heart morphogenesis in avian embryos.

Selected Publications

  • Zamir, E.A., Czirok, A., Cui, C., Little, C.D., and Rongish, B.J. Mesodermal cell displacements during avian gastrulation are due to both individual cell-autonomous and convective tissue movements. Proc Natl Acad Sci U SA 103(52):19806-19811, 2006. Epub 2006 Dec 18. (Evaluated by the Faculty of 1000, Biology:
  • Czirok, A., Zamir, E., Filla, M.B., Little, C.D., and Rongish, B.J. Extracellular matrix macro-assembly dynamics in vertebrate embryos. Current Topics in Developmental Biology Volume 73, p238-258 (G. Schatten, ed.), Elsevier Inc., 2006.
  • Zamir, E., Rongish, B. and Little, C. The ECM Moves during Primitive Streak Formation - Computation of ECM Versus Cellular Motion. PLoS Biol October 14; 6(10): e247, 2008 (Evaluated by the Faculty of 1000, Biology:
  • Cui, C., Cheuvront, T.J., Lansford, R.D., Moreno-Rodriguez, R.A., Schultheiss, T.M., and Rongish, B.J. Dynamic positional fate map of the primary heart-forming region. Dev Biol. 332(2):212-22, 2009.
  • Sato, Y., Poynter G., Huss, D., Filla, M.B., Czirok, A., Rongish, B.J., Little, C.D., Fraser, S.E. and Lansford, R. Dynamic analysis of vascular morphogenesis using transgenic quail embryos. PLoS One, 5:e12674, 2010. PMCID: PMC2939056
  • Czirok, A., Rongish, B.J., and Little, C.D. Vascular network formation in expanding versus static tissues – embryos and tumors. Genes & Cancer, 2(12):1072-80, 2011 DOI: 10.1177/1947601911426774. PMCID:PMC3411129
  • Aleksandrova, A., Czirok, A., Szabo, A., Filla, M.B., Hossain, M.J., Whelan, P.F, Lansford, R.D., and Rongish, B.J. Convective tissue movements play a major role in avian endocardial morphogenesis. Dev. Biol. 363(2):358-61 (2012). PMCID: PMC3288244
  • Loganathan, R., Potetz, B.R., Rongish, B.J., and Little, C.D. Spatial Anisotropies and Temporal Fluctuations in Extracellular Matrix Network Texture during Early Embryogenesis. PLoS ONE, 7(5):e38266, 2012. PMCID:PMC3365023
  • Cui, C., Filla, M.B., Jones, E.A., Lansford, R., Cheuvront, T., Al-Roubaie, S., Rongish, B.J., and Little, C.D. Embryogenesis of the first circulating endothelial cells. PLoS ONE, 8(5):e60841, 2013. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060841. PMCID:PMC3667859. Faculty 1000 Primerecommendation:
  • Loganathan, R., Little, C.D. Joshi, P., Filla, M.B., Cheuvront, T.J., Lansford, R., Rongish, B.J. Identification of emergent motion compartments in the amniote embryo, Organogenesis (in press, 2014)
  • Aleksandrova, A., Rongish, B.J., Little, C.D., and Czirok, A. Active cell and ECM movements during development. Methods Mol Biol. 2015;1189:123-32. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1164-6_9. PMCID:PMC3288244


Rongish, B PI ; Bittel, D. co-PI
scaRNAs regulate mRNA splicing and vertebrate heart development
Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute Patton Trust Research Award

Little, C Co-Investigator; Rongish, B Co-Investigator; Czirok, A Co-Investigator
Elucidating the emergent patterns that typify early amniote morphogenesis
Mathers Charitable Foundation

Contact information

The University of Kansas Medical Center
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
1012 WHW
3901 Rainbow Blvd.
Kansas City, KS 66160

(913) 588-1878 (office tele)
(913) 588-1857 (lab tele)
(913) 588-2710 (fax)

Lab Members

Petersen Filla
Alan Petersen
Systems Analyst

B.S. Secondary Education, Mathematics and Computer Science – Wayne State College 15+ years of experience in Information Technology including: application design, user interface design, programming, project planning.

Personal and professional interests:
Open Source software and philosophy, software design, writing, natural history, game structure and design, steam engines, astronomy, game theory, computer science, public education, firearms and military technology of the mid and late 19th century, music (particularly traditional), and animation
Michael Filla
Senior Research Associate

B.S. Biology - University of Missouri, Kansas City and 15+ years lab experience

Personal Interests:
Canoeing Missouri streams in the Fall and Winter months; Home brewing and Brown and Pale Ales-Hops, Hops and more Hops.
Last modified: Sep 28, 2018

Brenda Rongish


Brenda Rongish, PhD

1012 WHW
3901 Rainbow Blvd.
Kansas City, KS 66160

P: (913) 588-1878 (office)
F: (913) 588-2710