The genital tubercle develops from the embryonic cloaca. Development of genitalia begins with the formation of paired genital swellings on either side of the cloaca that grow and fuse into a genital tubercle. Defective cloaca development leads to some of the most severe congenital malformations found in children, such as a persistent cloaca. Genital defects are also among the most prevalent congenital human abnormalities. This project focuses on understanding which specific genes and cellular characteristics are involved in persistent cloaca and malformations of the genital tubercle during human development. I will investigate various knockouts of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and Indian hedgehog (Ihh) genes using mouse models to see if they are key players in the cloaca and genital tubercle development. This project also seeks to understand what epithelia cell types are present when a human is born with a cloaca defect and how we can use this information to correct the defect.