IMA Postdoc Seminar (February 26, 2008)

Speaker: David Umulis (University of Minnesota)

Title: Computational analysis of BMP-mediated embryonic patterning in Drosophila melanogaster

Abstract: The principal aim of developmental biology is to delineate how genes are turned on and off at the correct point in time and space to produce the multitude of specialized cell types present in the mature organism. The complexity of many developmental processes precludes an intuitive understanding of regulation at the systems level, making it difficult to construct new hypotheses and design experiments to reveal the molecular function of novel regulators. To address these challenges, we developed a unified approach that couples experimental methods such as fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), immunostaining, and in vitro kinetics with sophisticated 3D computational models to analyze early developmental processes in Drosophila melanogaster. In addition to elucidating molecular function, we used these mechanistic models to study the following questions, such as: How robust are developmental systems to perturbations in the underlying network structure and the quantities of the molecular regulators? How do different organisms within a species preserve proportion even though they vary substantially in body size? And, finally, how do cells respond to dynamic and noisy signals during development?