Main content

Elliott Abrams

Associate Professor of Biology

Elliott Abrams received his BA in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Rutgers University and went on to receive his PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

During his graduate studies, he used the model system Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) to investigate organogenesis and organ function (Abrams and Andrew, 2005, Development; Abrams et al., 2006, Development). After receiving his PhD, he worked with Mary C. Mullins during his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he discovered Brambleberry, a novel protein essential for nuclear envelope fusion during early embryogenesis (Abrams et al., 2012, Cell).

Research Interests

I am interested in understanding the molecular events that take place during early vertebrate development. To achieve this goal, I am examining maternal-effect zebrafish mutants I identified during my postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

In addition to this forward genetics approach, my laboratory is also employing a reverse genetics technique using the CRISPR/Cas9 system to examine the function and potential involvement of genes suspected to function in related processes/pathways. So far our studies have expanded our understanding of the distinct molecular mechanisms in involving the putative nuclear envelope protein Brambleberry during post-mitotic nuclear assembly in the blastomeres of the early embryo.

Work on nuclear envelope fusion in zebrafish has also expanded our focus to the protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila. The sexual reproductive cycle of this single-celled organism requires nuclear envelope fusion. My laboratory is currently investigating the possibility that certain molecular components, and hence functions, may be evolutionarily conserved between these two very disparate species.

Representative Courses

  • Spring 2015 -current         Developmental Biology Lecture (BIO3170)

  • Spring 2015 -current         Developmental Biology Laboratory (BIO3171)

  • Fall 2015 -2021                     Molecular Biology (BIO4620)

  • Spring 2021 -current         Cell Biology (BIO3530)

  • Fall 2020 -current                Biology Program Seminar (BIO2890)

  • Fall 2015-19; 2023              Biology Freshman Seminar (BIO1880)

  • Fall 2014-19; 2023             General Biology I Lecture (BIO1550)


  • Fuentes, R., Tajer, B., Kobayashi, M., Pelliccia, J. L., Langdon, Y., Abrams, E. W., Mullins, M. C. The maternal coordinate system: Molecular-genetics of embryonic axis formation and patterning in the zebrafish. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2020;140:341-389.

  • Abrams E.W., Fuentes R., Marlow F.L., Zhang, H., Lu. S., Kapp, L., Joseph, S.R., Kugath, A., Gupta, T., Lemon, V., Runke, G., Amodeo, A.A., Vastenhouw, N.L., and Mullins, M.C. Molecular genetics of maternally-controlled cell divisions. PLoS Genet. 2020;16(4): e1008652. Published 2020 Apr 8.

  • Kim, S., Alsrhani, A., Zefreen, L., Khandekar, G., Marlow, F. L., Abrams, E. W., Mullins, M. C., and Jagadeeswaren P. G protein-coupled receptor gpr34l mutation affects thrombocyte function in zebrafish. British Journal of Haematology. 2018 Feb;180(3):412-419.

  • Langdon, Y.G., Zhang, H., Abrams, E.W., Marlow, F.L., and Mullins, M.C.  Split top: A maternal cathepsin B that regulates dorsoventral patterning and morphogenesis. Development. 2016 Mar;143(6):1016-1028.

  • Ge, X., Grotjahn, D., Welch, E., Holguin, C., Lyman-Gingerich, J., Dimitrova, E., Abrams, E.W., Gupta, T., Marlow, F.L., Yabe, T., Adler, A., Mullins, M.C., and Pelegri, F.  Hecate/Grip2a acts to reorganize the cytoskeleton in the symmetry-breaking event of embryonic axis induction. PLOS Genet. 2014 Jun;10(6)

  • Kapp, L. D., Abrams, E.W., Marlow, F.L., and Mullins, M.C. The integrator complex subunit 6 (Ints6) restricts the dorsal organizer in vertebrate embryogenesis. PLOS Genet. 2013 Oct;9(10)e1003822.

  • Abrams E.W., Cheng Y.L., Andrew D.J. Drosophila KDEL receptor function in the embryonic salivary gland and epidermis. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 18;8(10):e77618.

  • Nair, S., Marlow, F., Abrams, E., Kapp, L., Mullins, M.C., and Pelegri, F.  The chromosomal passenger protein Birc5b organizes microfilaments and germ plasm in the zebrafish embryo. PLOS Genet. 2013 Apr;9(4):e1003448.

  • Abrams, E.W., Zhang, H., Marlow, F.L., Kapp, L., Lu, S., and Mullins, M.C.  Dynamic assembly of Brambleberry mediates nuclear envelope fusion during early development. Cell. 2012 Aug 3;150(3):521-532. Faculty of 1000 Recommended

  • EauClaire, S.F., Cui, S., Ma, L., Matous, J., Marlow, F.L., Gupta, T., Burgess, H.A., Abrams, E.W., Kapp, L.D., Granato, M., Mullins, M.C., and Matthews, R.P. Mutations in vacuolar H + -ATPase subunits lead to biliary developmental defects in zebrafish. Dev Biol. 2012 May;365(2):434-444.

  • Abrams, E.W. and Mullins, M.C. Early zebrafish development: it’s in the maternal genes. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2009 Aug;19(4):396-403.

  • Abrams, E.W., Mihoulides, W.K., and Andrew, D.J. Fork head and Sage maintain a uniform and patent salivary gland lumen through the regulation of two downstream target genes PH4αSG1 and PH4αSG2. Development. 2006 Sep;133(18):3517-3527.

  • Abrams, E.W. and Andrew, D.J. CrebA regulates secretory activity in the Drosophila salivary gland and epidermis. Development. 2005 Jun;132(12):2743-2758.

  • Abrams, E.W., Vining, M.S., and Andrew, D.J. Constructing an organ: the Drosophila salivary gland as a model for tube formation. Trends Cell Biol. 2003 May;13(5):247-254.

  • Abrams, E.W. and Andrew, D.J. Prolyl 4-hydroxylase alpha-related proteins in Drosophila melanogaster: tissue-specific embryonic expression of the 99F8-9 cluster. Mech Dev. 2002 Mar;112(1-2):165- 171.

  • Sciavolino, P.J., Abrams, E.W., Yang, L., Austenberg, L.P., Shen, M.M., and Abate-Shen, C. Tissue-specific expression of murine Nkx3.1 in the male urogenital system. Dev Dyn. 1997 May;209(1):127-138.