Patrick Müller

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Systems biology of vertebrate axis formation



How does an initially homogenous population of cells self-organize to form patterned embryos and tissues? The influential reaction-diffusion model postulates that patterns emerge under the influence of poorly diffusive activators and highly diffusive inhibitors. We have found biophysical evidence demonstrating differential diffusivity of activators and inhibitors during early vertebrate development, and we focus on three major questions to understand how such reaction-diffusion systems transform a uniform field of cells into an embryo: First, how is the differential diffusivity of activators and inhibitors achieved? Second, how do reaction-diffusion systems ensure robust pattern formation? Third, how do reaction-diffusion systems adapt to tissue size? I will present our recent quantitative experiments and mathematical modeling using zebrafish and mouse embryonic stem cells as model systems to address these questions.


Patrick Müller is a principal investigator at the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory (FML) of the Max Planck Society in Tübingen. Research in his lab combines genetics, embryology, biophysics, and theoretical approaches to understand how extracellular signaling molecules pattern developing embryos and tissues. From 1999 to 2004, he studied in Göttingen, Berkeley, and New York. He received his Ph.D. from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in 2007 and did his postdoc in Alex Schier's lab at Harvard University. In 2013, Patrick Müller joined the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen and one year later was appointed as a Max Planck Research Group Leader at the FML. His lab works on understanding the mechanisms of morphogen transport, pattern formation in differently sized embryos, and self-organized patterning during vertebrate development. Among the honors he received are the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society, the HFSP Career Development Award, an ERC Starting Grant, and the EMBO Young Investigator Award.