Dr. Hernan Garcia, Princeton University

Event Date: 

Monday, February 3, 2014 - 11:00am

Event Location: 

  • KITP Main Seminar Room (a.k.a. rm 1003
  • Kohn Hall)

Event Contact: 


Dr. Hernan Garcia, Princeton University

How, when and where in pattern formation: Spying on embryonic development one molecule at a time


An abiding mystery in biology is how a single cell develops into a multicellular organism. Despite advances in determining the identities of the molecular players that mediate these developmental programs we are still incapable of predicting how simple physical parameters such as the number, position and affinity of binding sites for these molecules on the DNA determine developmental fates. Technological limitations have kept us in the dark about the dynamics of these regulatory decisions, a necessary first step towards the predictive understanding of developmental response.

I will show how a combination of new technologies, quantitative experiments, and theoretical modeling allows to access and predict developmental decisions in living fruit fly embryos at the single nucleus level. Using this approach we determine developmental input-output functions by measuring where, when and how fast nuclei express a gene in response to an input morphogen. I will show that the standard picture of transcriptional decisions is insufficient to quantitatively explain the formation of sharp boundaries along the embryo and will present novel regulatory strategies that are invoked by the fly in order to amplify otherwise shallow boundaries. This work provides a framework to predictively understand and control developmental response by identifying the different regulatory strategies employed by the fly in the generation of patterns of gene expression.