Christopher C. Wendler, Ph.D.


Child Health Research Institute

Academic Title

Assistant Professor

Contact Information

(352) 294-5675 (phone)


  • B.S., University of Iowa (1990)
  • Ph.D., University of Arizona (2000)
  • Postdoctoral, Medical College of Wisconsin (2000-2003)

Research Overview

Dr. Wendler’s research is primarily interested in cardiac development.  Currently, he has two main areas of research interest:

1) The role of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) during early cardiac development.  S1P is critical for the development of the vascular system, where loss of sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1 (S1P1) leads to embryonic lethality.  However, little is known about the role of S1P during cardiac development.  Dr. Wendler has previously shown that altered S1P signaling leads to the disruption of cell transformation and cell migration in atrioventricular cells.  This endothelial to mesenchymal cell transformation is critical for normal heart valve development.  Further analysis demonstrated that the critical S1P signaling in the heart is mediated by S1P1, where loss of S1P1 resulted in altered morphology of the embryonic heart.

2) The mechanism by which adenosine signaling protects the developing embryo from intra-uterine stress such as hypoxia.  In addition, he wants to determine how altered adenosine signaling and intra-uterine stress during embryogenesis can lead to cardiac and metabolic abnormalites in adulthood.  Previously, he has demonstrated that adenosine A1 receptor (A1AR) signaling protects the embryo from hypoxic conditions in utero.  Later studies determined that cardiac A1AR expression was critical for this protection against hypoxia.  Currently, he is exploring DNA methylation as a possible mechanism by which early in utero exposure to drugs (caffeine) and stress (hypoxia) leads to altered cardiac and metabolic function in adulthood.

Key Publications

  1. Runyan, R.B., Wendler, C.C., Romano, L.A., Boyer, A.S., Dagle, J.M., and Weeks, D.L. (1999) Utilization of Antisense Oligonucleotides with Embryonic Tissues in Culture.  Methods: A companion to Methods in Enzymology 18, 316-321.
  2. Wendler, C.C., Schmoldt, A., Flentke, G.R., Case, L.C., Quadro, L., Blaner, W.A., Lough, J., and Smith, S.M. (2003) Increased Fibronectin Deposition in Embryonic Hearts of Retinol Binding Protein-Null Mice. Circ Res 92:8, 920-928.
  3. Wendler, C.C. and Rivkees, S.A. (2006) Sphingosine-1-phosphate inhibits cell migration and endothelial to mesenchymal cell transformation during cardiac development.  Developmental Biology 291, 264-277.
  4. Wendler, C.C., Ghatpande, S., McClaskey, C., Amatya, S., Fredholm, B.B., Rivkees, S.A.  (2007)  A1 adenosine receptors play an essential role in protecting the embryo against hypoxia.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104:23, 9697-9702.
  5. Ghatpande, S., Billington, C.J., Rivkees, S.A., and Wendler, C.C. (2008)  Hypoxia Induces Cardiac Malformations via A1 Adenosine Receptor Activation in Chicken Embryos.  Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology 82:3, 121-130.
  6. Wendler, C.C., Busovsky-McNeal, M., Ghatpande, S., Kalinowski, A., Russell, K.S., and Rivkees, S.A. (2009) Embryonic Caffeine Exposure Induces Adverse Effects in Adulthood.  The FASEB Journal 23:4, 1272-1278.
  7. Wendler, C.C., Poulsen, R.R., Ghatpande, S., Greene, R.W., and Rivkees, S.A.  (2010) Identification of the heart as the critical site of adenosine mediated embryo protection.  BMC Developmental Biology 10:57.
  8. Poulsen, R.R., McClaskey, C., Rivkees, S.A., and Wendler C.C. (2011) The Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Receptor 1 Mediates S1P Action during Cardiac Development.  BMC Developmental Biology 11:37.
  9. Buscariollo D.L., Breuer G.A., Wendler C.C., Rivkees S.A. (2011) Caffeine Acts via A1 Adenosine Receptors to Disrupt Embryonic Cardiac Function. PLoS ONE 6(12): e28296. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028296
  10. Rivkees, S.A. and Wendler, C.C. (2011) Adverse and Protective Influences of Adenosine on the Newborn and Embryo: Implications for Preterm White Matter Injury and Embryo Protection. Pediatrics Research 69(4): 271-278.
  11. Benavides V.C., Mallela M.K., Booth C.J., Wendler C.C., and Rivkees S.A. (2012) Propylthiouracil is teratogenic in murine embryos.PLoS One. 7(4): e35213.
  12. Rivkees S.A. and Wendler C.C. (2012) Regulation of cardiovascular development by adenosine and adenosine-mediated embryo protection.  Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. Apr;32(4):851-5.