Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01
SC-INBRE at Winthrop

The Evans-Anderson Lab

Regulation of cardiac myocyte proliferation and myocardial regeneration in Ciona intestinalis

 Evans-Anderson, Heather   Name:  Heather Evans-Anderson 
Title:  Assistant Professor of Biology 
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Ph.D., Biomedical Science, University of South Carolina
B.S., Biology, Vanderbilt University
Office:  102 Dalton Hall  
Phone:  803/323-2111 x6679 
Heart Development, Cardiac Regeneration

SC-INBRE Research

Congenital heart disorders are the most prevalent lethal birth defects in children and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in adults.  A common feature in both pediatric and adult heart disease is altered regulation of how the contractile cells of the heart grow and divide.  Structural and functional defects in the heart occur if the cardiac myocytes do not proliferate correctly to form the heart during development or repair the heart after damage.  In order to develop well-targeted therapeutic strategies designed to correct heart disease in patients, we must first understand the regulatory program that directs cardiac myocyte proliferation.  Vertebrate animal model systems are often used to dissect the molecular mechanisms that regulate developmental and disease processes.  However, we are using an invertebrate animal model system (Ciona intestinalis) that has many advantages for the study of heart development including: conserved genes that drive heart development, a relatively simple heart design, and the ability to study large populations with relative ease in maintenance of the colony.  Heart development in Ciona is similar to vertebrate embryos and provides a straightforward avenue for the study of signaling pathways that regulate development, which are extremely complex in higher organisms.  A striking difference between mammalian hearts and the Ciona heart is that Ciona are capable of regenerating cardiac myocytes throughout its lifespan; however, the signaling mechanisms responsible for directing cardiac myocyte proliferation in Ciona have not yet been studied. Therefore, the goal of our research is to determine the mechanisms that regulate cardiac myocyte proliferation and regeneration in the simple heart of our most primitive ancestor.  Understanding this process in Ciona will contribute to understanding the basic guidelines required for cardiac myocyte proliferation, which will refine and help simplify the unraveling of the complex mechanisms in humans.  Taken together, this information will promote a more accurate direction for the development of new therapeutic strategies to treat cardiovascular disease.  

Figure 1: Ciona are primitive chordates that share a close evolutionary relationship with vertebrates. The structure of their hearts is similar to embryonic vertebrate hearts. The genetic mechanisms that shape the Ciona heart during development are conserved. [Adapted from Davidson, 2007]

Research Support-Active

IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE II), Source: NIH, 2 P20 RR016461-10
Dates of Project: 7/1/10-6/30/15
Role: Internally supported faculty
This project provides research supplies and undergraduate student stipends to support research efforts and promote acquisition of preliminary data for extramural funding applications. 

Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA), Source: NIH, 1 R15 HL104587-01
Dates of Project: 7/1/10 – 6/30/13
Role: PI
This extramural award provides funding for a full time lab technician, graduate student stipend, faculty summer stipend, and research supplies. 

SC INBRE Bioinformatics Pilot Project Program Award, Subcontract, Source: NIH, 2 P20 RR016461-10
Dates of Project: 1/1/2011 – 6/30/2011
Role: PI
This project was co-authored by Winthrop University students James Tucker (Undergraduate) and Michael Lu (Graduate).  It will provide funding for a microarray study examining cardiac regeneration in Ciona intestinalis. 



A. Sengupta, S. Chakraborty, J.H. Paik, K.E. Yutzey, H.J. Evans-Anderson. 2012.  FoxO1 is required in endothelial lineages but not myocardial lineages during heart development.  Developmental Dynamics, Apr;241(4):803-13.

H. J. Evans-Anderson, C.M. Alfieri, K.E. Yutzey. 2008.  Regulation of cardiomyocyte proliferation and myocardial growth during development by FOXO transcription factors.  Circulation Research.  102 (6): 686-94.

C.M. Alfieri, H.J. Evans-Anderson, K.E. Yutzey. 2007.  Regulation of locally acting IGF1 regulatory sequences by calcineurin activation of NFATc3.  Am J Physiol Cell Physiol.  292(5): C1887-94. 

H.J. Evans, L. Edwards, R.L. Goodwin.  2007.  Conserved C-Terminal domains of mCenp-F (LEK1) regulate subcellular localization and mitotic checkpoint delay.   Experimental Cell Research.  313(11):  2427-37. 

H. J. Evans and R. L. Goodwin.  2007.  Western Array analysis of cell cycle protein changes during the hyperplastic to hypertrophic transition in heart development.    Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry.  303 (1-2):  189-99. 

M.J. Yost, C.F. Baicu, C.E. Stonerock, R.L. Goodwin, R.L. Price, J.M. Davis, H. J. Evans, P.D. Watson, M. Gore, J.K. Sweet, L. Creech, M.R. Zile, L. Terracio.  2004.  A Novel tubular scaffold for cardiovascular tissue engineering.  Tissue Engineering 10(1/2):  273-283. 

H.J. Evans, J.K. Sweet, R.L. Price, M. Yost, R. L. Goodwin.  2003.  Novel 3D culture system for study of cardiac myocyte development.  Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol  285:  H570-H578. 


Undergraduate Research Students (2008-present)

  • Katie Wessinger, May 2008-May 2009; earned BS degree; currently attending graduate program at Emory University
  • Mary Faith Encarnacion, January 2009-May 2009, earned BS degree; currently attending graduate program at Medical University of  South Carolina (MUSC)
  • Sabahat Khanum,  January 2009-May 2010, earned BS degree; currently applying to physician’s assistant program at MUSC
  • Sherria Johnson,  January 2009- May 2010 earned BS degree; currently attending graduate program at Winthrop University
  • Kim Sauls, August 2009 – May 2010, earned BS degree, worked as lab technician at MUSC, currently attending PhD program at MUSC
  • Hannah Floyd, August 2009 – December 2010, earned BS degree with honors, tragically killed in car accident
  • James Tucker, August 2009 – earned BS degree May 2011; currently attending PhD program at Wake Forest University
  • John Samies, August 2009 – earned BS May 2011, applying to Medical School
  • Alexis Venesky, January 2011 – earned BS May 2011, applying to MS and PhD programs
  • Zayed Amer Almadidy, January 2011 – earned BS May 2012, applying to MD programs
  • Lindsey Washburn, January 2011 - current
  • Erin Henneberry, January 2011 – earned BS Dec 2011, accepted to medical school at MUSC
  • Matthew Raad, summer May 2011
  • Kelsey Aadland, summer May 2011
  • Caitlin Manning, summer May 2011- current Honor’s thesis student
  • Christine Harvey, summer May 2011 – earned BS May 2012, accepted to PhD program at Boston College
  • Brittany Prioleau – McNair Scholar, starting summer 2012

Graduate Research Students (2008-present)

  • Elizabeth Green, August 2008-May 2010; earned MS degree, thesis title: Evolutionarily-Conserved Regulatory Mechanisms of Cardiac Development in Ciona intestinalis.  Elizabeth is currently working as lab manager at University of Michigan
  • Michael D. Lu, August 2010 – May 2011; thesis project involved a microarray study of cardiac myocyte regeneration in Ciona intestinalis.  (Did not complete)
  • Laini Ibrahim, August 2010 – May 2011; thesis project investigating the cis-regulatory elements of dFoxo in Drosophila melanogaster.  (Did not complete)
  • Kelly Taylor, August 2011- December 2011; thesis project development.  Left program to attend veterinary school. 
  • Serenity Stokes, May 2012 –thesis student
  • Radhika Chabba, August 2012 – non-thesis student
  • Kate McGuinness, August 2012 – thesis student

Achievements of Research Students (2008-present)

  • Best platform presentation and Outstanding female scientist awarded to Katie Wessinger at annual South Carolina Academy of Science meeting, Columbia, SC May 2009.  Katie was accepted into the summer undergraduate research program at Cannon Research Center, Charlotte, NC in 2009. 
  • Mary Faith Encarnacion was awarded a scholarship to the Histotechnology Program at MUSC, Charleston, SC, October 2009
  • Elizabeth Green was selected as a finalist in a graduate student poster competition for the annual Charlotte Biotechnology Conference, Charlotte, NC, October 2009.  Elizabeth also received numerous travel awards from the College of Arts and Sciences and Sponsored Programs and Research at Winthrop University.  In addition, Elizabeth was a co-author on a Winthrop Research Council grant that was funded. 
  • John Samies and James Tucker received travel awards from the College of Arts and Sciences and Sponsored Programs and Research at Winthrop University. 
  • Kim Sauls was accepted into the MUSC summer undergraduate research program in 2009 and 2010.  Kim was accepted to the Ph.D. program at MUSC in Developmental Biology and Anatomy. 
  • James Tucker was awarded the Houk Prize for undergraduate research from the Biology Department at Winthrop University.  James is currently attending Wake Forest University for an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program.
  • James Tucker and Michael Lu were co-authors on an extramural grant that was funded.  This grant will fund Michael’s thesis project. 
  • Christine Harvey attended a summer research program at UCSD and is currently enrolled in a PhD program at Boston College.  
  • Erin Henneberry was accepted to MUSC MD program as an early decision applicant
  • Zayed Almadidy received an outstanding presentation award in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the Big South Undergraduate Research Symposium

Current and Former Students

Sherria Johnson
Hannah Floyd
Elizabeth Walker
James Tucker and John Samies
Pooja Pardhanani (Lab Technician Extraordinaire) and James Tucker

Lab Pic, Spring 2011

Alexis Venesky, Pooja Pardhanani, Lyndsey Washburn, Erin Henneberry, Heather Evans-Anderson, Zayed Almadidy, James Tucker, John Samies


Lab Pic, Summer 2011

Heather Evans-Anderson, Matthew Raad, Caitlin Manning, Pooja Pardhanani, James Tucker, Kelsey Aadland, Lyndsey Washburn, Christine Harvey


Kelsey Aadland, Pooja Pardhanani, Lindsey Washburn


John Samies and Kelsey Aadland


Lab Pic, Summer 2011

Lyndsey Washburn, Matthew Raad, Christine Harvey, Pooja Pardhanani, Kelsey Aadland, Caitlin Manning, James Tucker


Lab Pic, Fall 2012

Brian McCann, Caitlin Manning, Pooja Pardhanani, Lyndsey Washburn, Serenity Stokes