Virginia E. Papaioannou

Virginia Papaioannou (aka Ginny) was awarded emerita status in 2017 upon her retirement from the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center, where she was active in teaching and research for 24 years.  Her research laboratory had a long-standing interest in the genetic control of early mammalian development, from the first cleavage of the fertilized zygote through implantation, gastrulation, and early organogenesis. She used a variety of approaches to study the determination of cell lineages and the interactions of the developing embryo with the maternal environment, taking advantage of both naturally occurring and experimentally induced mutations. A major strength of the laboratory was the combination of classic experimental embryology techniques with molecular biology and targeted mutagenesis.  She is the co-author of an acclaimed book, currently being revised for a second edition, titled Manipulating the Mouse Embryo, A Handbook of Mutation Analysis. 

Her laboratory extensively studied a family of transcription factor genes, the T-box gene family. The genes are highly conserved in evolution and have been implicated in the control of mesoderm formation and in inductive interactions in the organogenesis of organs such as mammary gland, heart, lung, and limbs. She investigated the role of Tbx6 in the decision between neural and mesodermal fates and left/right body axis determination, and the roles of Tbx2, Tbx3, Tbx4 and Tbx5 in heart, limb, mammary gland and lung development. Her interest is in understanding how these genes control cell fate and tissue specification decisions during early development. Several mutations in human T-box genes have been shown to be responsible for developmental birth defects and by using targeted mutagenesis, the Papaioannou laboratory produced mouse models for the human DiGeorge syndrome (TBX1), the ulnar mammary syndrome (TBX3), the small patella syndrome (TBX4), spondylocostal dysostosis  (TBX6), and kidney defects (TBX6).

Research in the Papaioannou laboratory was continuously funded through competitive grants from various private and public institutions, such as the March of Dimes, The American Cancer Society, The Muscular Dystrophy Association, The US Department of Agriculture, The National Science Foundation, and The National Institutes of Health, notably including a prestigious 10-year NIH MERIT Award.

Throughout her career, Ginny has been active in teaching and mentoring, with a special interest in mentoring women and other groups underrepresented in Science.  She hosted numerous high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and science teachers for research experience in her laboratory.  She was course director for the Cold Spring Harbor summer course on Molecular Embryology of the Mouse.  She served as the Program Director for the Graduate Program in Genetics and Development at CUMC for 22 years, successfully obtaining NIH funding for the program throughout that period.

As an active member of EPIC and an accredited yoga teacher, Ginny founded a program of EPIC Yoga in 2017, which offers mixed-level classes designed for seniors.  The program currently offers Zoom classes and prerecorded sessions.

Education & Academic Positions

  • BS, 1968 Biological Sciences, University of California - Davis
  • PhD, 1972 Genetics, Cambridge University, UK
  • Postdoctoral Training, The Marshall Laboratory, Cambridge University, UK and The Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford University, UK
  • Assistant and Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Tufts University School of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, Boston, MA
  • Professor, Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University Medical Center, NY

Selected Publications

(For a complete listing of publications  see )

  1. Papaioannou, V.E., McBurney, M.W., Gardner, R.L., and Evans, M.J.  1975.  Fate of teratocarcinoma cells injected into early mouse embryos.  Nature 258: 70‑73
  2. Johnson, R.S., Spiegelman, B.M., and Papaioannou, V.E.  1992.  Pleiotropic effects of a null mutation in the c-fos proto-oncogene.  Cell 71: 577-586.
  3. Chapman, D. L. and Papaioannou, V. E. 1998. Three neural tubes in mice carrying mutations in the T-box gene, Tbx6. Nature 391:695-697. PMID:9490412
  4. Jerome, L. and Papaioannou, V. E. 2001. DiGeorge syndrome phenotype in mice mutant for the T-box gene, Tbx1Nature Genetics 27: 286-29. PMID:11242110
  5. Papaioannou, V. E. and Behringer, R. R. 2004. Mouse Phenotypes, A Handbook of Mutation Analysis. Cold Spring Harbor Press, 235 pp.
  6. Naiche, L. A. and Papaioannou, V. E. 2007. Tbx4 is not required for hindlimb identity or post-bud hindlimb outgrowth. Development 134:93-103. PMID:17164415
  7. Concepcion, D., Hamada, H., and Papaioannou, V. E. 2018. Tbx6 controls left-right asymmetry through regulation of Gdf1. Biology Open 2018 7: bio032565 doi: 10.1242/bio.032565 Published 4 May 2018
  8. Papaioannou, V. E. 2014. The T-box gene family: Emerging roles in development, stem cells and cancer.  Development 141:3819-3833. PMCID: PMC4197708
  9. Papaioannou, V. E. 2016. Concepts of cell lineage in mammalian embryos. Current Topics in Developmental Biology. Essays on Developmental Biology – 2016, 117:185-197. Epub 2016 Jan 21. PMC4793410
  10. Verbitsky, M. et al., Papaioannou, V.E., Mendelsohn, C. L., Gharavi, A. G., Sanna-Cherchi, S. 2019. The copy number variation landscape of congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract. Nat. Genet. 51(1):117-127.


Last updated September 30, 2020