What are the design principles of the PAR polarity network that drive the emergence of polarized patterns and how are these encoded by the collective activities of the component molecules?
Our long term goal is to understand how polarity is established by polarity networks that must transduce symmetry-breaking cues into stable molecular asymmetries. Our work focuses on a conserved polarity network defined by the PAR (PAR-titioning defective) proteins, which underlie polarity in diverse contexts, including defining epithelial architecture and function, driving asymmetric division of stem cells, and specifying cell fate of embryonic blastomeres.
As cells polarize, PAR proteins ‘pattern’ the cell membrane into domains that define a cell’s functional asymmetry and thereby serve as spatial regulators of downstream pathways, such as spindle positioning, segregation of fate determinants, and membrane trafficking.
Our interdisciplinary team combines genetics, quantitative imaging, in vivo biophysics, and mathematical modelling to link system-level properties of the PAR network to molecular behaviors, thereby providing a multi-scale model for how PAR proteins polarize cells in response to developmental cues and ultimately how polarized patterns are read out by the downstream pathways that define a cell's functional polarity.