Leslie L. Heckert

Leslie Heckert
  • Professor
  • Marion M. Osborn Professor for Reproductive Sciences


Our laboratory is studying the molecular mechanisms that regulate cellular differentiation and organ development of the reproductive system. We are interested in the transcriptional and cell-signaling processes involved in activating and regulating genes important for the development and function of the testis and their implications in sex determination. In particular, we are studying the processes that control testis- or gonad-specific expression of three genes that are critical for proper fetal development and/or gonad function. These are: 1) doublesex and mab-3 related transcription factor 1, an evolutionarily conserved protein that is required for testis differentiation, 2) steroidogenic factor 1, a protein that is required for the formation of adrenal glands and gonads, and 3) follicle stimulating hormone receptor, a protein expressed only in somatic cells of the gonads and is required for endocrine regulation of the testis and ovary. My laboratory employs a variety of experimental approaches that include cell culture, molecular biology, and transgenic and knockout mice. Through these studies, we hope to provide insight into the genetic events necessary for formation and function of the gonads, thus expanding our understanding of the biological requirements for organ development and reproduction.

illustration of genes in gonad development

-P-G Axis illustration

Selected Publications

Heckert, L.L., Sawadogo, M., Daggett, M.A.F., and Chen, J. (2000) "The USF proteins regulate transcription of the follicle-stimulating hormone receptor but are insufficient for cell-specific expression." Mol. Endocrinol 14: 1836-1848.

Chen J-K and Heckert LL (2001) "DMRT1 expression is regulated by follicle-stimulating hormone and
phorbol esters in postnatal Sertoli cells". Endocrinology 142:1167-1178

Heckert, L.L. (2001) "Activation of the rat FSHR promoter by steroidogenic factor 1 is blocked by PKA and requires USF binding to a proximal E-box element" Mol. Endocrinol 15: 704-715

Heckert, L.L. and Griswold, M.D. (2002) "The expression of the FSH receptor in Spermatogenesis" Recent Progress in Hormone Research 57: 129-148

Lei N and Heckert, L.L. (2002) "Sp1 and Egr1 regulate transcription of the Dmrt1 gene in Sertoli cells" Biology
of Reproduction
66: 675-684

Scherrer, S.P., Rice, D.A. and Heckert, L.L. (2002) "Expression of steroidogenic factor 1 in the testis requires
an interactive array of elements within its proximal promoter" Biology of Reproduction in press