Work in our group is centered on the problem of how cells acquire identity. Our model system is the early embryo of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. This weed has been widely recognized as a model plant, with all associated benefits. Embryogenesis in Arabidopsis is relatively simple, and few cells are involved in formation of individual body parts. Furthermore, cell divisions are quite predictable, and positions of cell types almost invariant (see Figure below). However, very little is known about the mechanisms that specify the individual cells, or how cells communicate to form an ordered pattern. The projects running in our lab are aimed to shed light on the mechanisms by which key proteins regulate these processes, and include a wide range of approaches from cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry to structural biology, mathematics and bioinformatics.
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Some key questions in our lab:
- How are embryonic cells specified and how are they different from extra-embryonic cells? What does it take to be an embryo?
- What are the transcriptomic properties of each different cell type in the embryo and how are changes correlated with cell fate?
- What is the role of specific genes in the specification of a cell type?
- What is the structural basis for transcription factor function?
- What cellular properties are involved in cell specification and division?
- How does protein movement affect cell specification?