Picture of Dr. Michelle M. Collins

Dr. Michelle M. Collins PhD Assistant Professor Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology

Office: 3D01.12 HLTH, Lab: B330 HLTH

Research Area(s)

  • Developmental genetics
  • Cardiovascular development and disease
  • Cardiac physiology


Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology, University of Saskatchewan (2021)

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Developmental Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research (2014-2020)

Ph.D. Genetics, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University (2013)

B.Sc. Honors Genetics, University of Western Ontario (2006)


Research Interests 

Heart development is a complex, intricate process.  The heart is the first organ formed in the developing embryo, transforming from a primitive, linear heart tube into a functional, beating heart.  Importantly, the heart must be correctly formed and function properly to support the development of the growing embryo, and perturbations that impact heart morphogenesis or pumping can lead to congenital heart defects.  

The goal of the Collins lab is to understand the molecular basis of cardiac development and function.  Using the zebrafish model, we aim to identify genes required for heart development and understand how mutations in these genes lead to congenital heart defects.  By taking advantage of the optical transparency of zebrafish, we can visualize the beating heart in the living embryo as it develops.  We combine genetics, cell biology, and cardiac physiology approaches to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying cardiac development and function.  

Our lab also develops models to understand the genetic basis of inherited cardiomyopathies and cardiac arrhythmias.  Many of these diseases have a significant genetic contribution that impacts the development of the cardiovascular system.  While we can identify these genetic mutations, we have an incomplete understanding of how these genes drive disease pathogenesis.  Our approaches in zebrafish allow us to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying these diseases.  Building fundamental knowledge of heart formation and function enables our lab to contribute to a critical gap in knowledge about the genetic basis of cardiac diseases.

Selected Publications

Collins MM*, Ahlberg G, Vestergaard Hansen C, Guenther S, Marin-Juez R, Sokol AM, El-Sammak H, Piesker J, Hellsten Y, Olesen MS, Stainier DYR*, and Lundegaard PR*.  (2019) Early sarcomere and metabolic defects in a zebrafish pitx2c cardiac arrhythmia model.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 116 (48) 24115-24121. 

Villasenor A#, Gauvrit S#, Collins MM, and Stainier, DYR.  (2019) Hhex regulates the specification and growth of the hepatopancreatic ductal system. Developmental Biology 458(2):228-236. 

Sokol AM#, Uszczynska-Ratajczak B#, Collins MM, Bazala M, Topf U, Sugunan S, Guenther S, Kuenne C, Graumann J, Chan SS, Stainier DYR, and Chacinska A. (2018) Loss of the Mia40a oxidoreductase leads to hepato-pancreatic insufficiency in zebrafish. PLoS Genetics 14(11):e1007743 

Gauvrit S, Villasenor A, Strilic B, Kitchen P, Collins MM, Marin-Juez R, Maischein HM, Canham MA, Brickman JM, Bogue CW, Jayaraman PS, and Stainier DYR. (2018) HHEX is a transcriptional regulator of the VEGFC/FLT4/PROX1 signaling axis during vascular development.  Nature Communications 9 (1):2704.  

Collins MM*, Maischein HM, Dufourcq P, Charpentier M, Blader P, and Stainier DYR*. (2018) Pitx2c orchestrates embryonic axis extension via mesendodermal cell migration.  eLife 7:e34880.  

Lai JHK, Collins MM, Jimenez-Amilburu V, Guenther S, Maischein HM, and Stainier DYR. (2018) The Hippo pathway effector Wwtr1 regulates cardiac wall maturation in zebrafish.  Development 145(10):dev159210. 

Baumholtz AI, Simard A, Nicolopoulou E, Oosenbrug M, Collins MM, Piontek A, Krause G, Piontek J, Greene NDE, and Ryan AK. (2017) Claudins are essential for cell shape changes and convergent extension movements during neural tube closure.  Developmental Biology 427(1): 25-38.  

Collins MM and Stainier DYR. (2016) Organ function as a modulator of organ formation: lessons from zebrafish. Current Topics in Developmental Biology 177:417-433. 

Collins MM, Baumholtz AI, Simard A, Gregory M, Cyr DG, and Ryan AK. (2015) Claudin-10 is required for relay of left-right patterning cues from Hensen’s node to the lateral plate mesoderm.  Developmental Biology 401(2):236-248. 

Collins MM and Ryan AK. (2014) Are there conserved roles for the extracellular matrix, cilia, and junctional complexes in left-right patterning? Genesis 52(6):488-502. 

Collins MM, Baumholtz AI, and Ryan AK. (2013) Claudin family members exhibit unique temporal and spatial expression boundaries in the chick embryo.  Tissue Barriers 1(3):e24517. 

Collins MM, Baumholtz AI, and Ryan AK. (2012) Claudin-5 expression in the developing vasculature of the chick embryo.  Gene Expression Patterns 12(3):123-129. 

Collins MM and Ryan AK. (2011) Manipulating Claudin Expression in Avian Embryos.  Methods in Molecular Biology 762:195-212. 

Parkinson N, Collins MM, Dufresne L, and Ryan AK. (2010) Expression patterns of hormones, signaling molecules, and transcription factors during adenohypophysis development in the chick embryo.  Developmental Dynamics 239(4):1197-1210. 

Trevithick-Sutton CC, Foote CS, Collins M, and Trevithick JR. (2006) The retinal carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein scavenge superoxide and hydroxyl radicals: a chemiluminescence and ESR study.  Molecular Vision 12:1127-1135. 

Prickett CD, Lister E, Collins M, Trevithick-Sutton CC, Hirst M, Vinson J, Noble E, and Trevithick JR. (2004) Alcohol: Friend or Foe?  Alcoholic beverage hormesis for cataract and atherosclerosis is related to plasma antioxidant activity.  Nonlinearity in Biology, Toxicology, and Medicine  2:353-370.