Dr. Whitsett's laboratory discovered surfactant proteins B and C, cloned the genes encoding the surfactant proteins A, B, C, and D, Scgb1a1, TTF-1 and others and utilized transgenic mouse models to delete and mutate these genes in transgenic mice. They identified transcriptional networks regulating lung morphogenesis and perinatal lung maturation contributing to the understanding of the roles of TTF-1, CEBPα, SOX2, SOX17, FOXA1, FOXA2, FOXA3, SPDEF, KLF5, CDC42 and others using both in vitro and in vivo methods. They identified multiple transcription factors regulating goblet cell differentiation airway epithelial cells including critical role of SPDEF, FOXA3 and airway goblet cells controlling innate immunity. They produced transgenic mouse models for conditional deletion and expression of genes involved in lung development, disease, and repair. They have generated transgenic models of pulmonary adenocarcinoma and explored the role of transcription factors mediating pulmonary adenocarcinoma in vivo and in vitro. They utilized RNA-Seq, microarray, Chip-Seq in the application of Nex-Gen sequencing and bioinformatics to identify and understand networks involved in the regulation of lung development and disease using clinical sample, as well as in vitro and in vivo models.
Dr. Whitsett has a long interest in training both in the clinical setting in “Neonatology” and in “Pulmonary Biology” and has contributed to the direct training of more than 80 graduate or post-graduate students in his laboratory. The scope of his work is represented in several recent reviews. Initial discoveries from his laboratory provided early insights into the genes and proteins critical for surfactant function including ABCA3, SFTPC, SFTPB, SFTPA, SFTPD.