Mathematical Biology seminar

David Goulet
Applied Mathematics, California Institute of Technology
"Mathematical Models of Vulval Development in C.elegans"
April 20
3:05pm in LCB 121

Caenorhabditis Elegans is among the most highly studied and well characterized organisms in biology. Additionally, the development of the vulva in the C.elegans hermaphrodite is one of the most thoroughly described morphogenic processes in this nematode. Despite this, there are lingering questions regarding vulval formation, many related to intercellular signaling and cell fate specification.

Two cells essential for proper vulva and uterus development are the Ventral Uterine Precursor Cell (VU) and the Anchor Cell (AC). The AC, through a secreted EGF type ligand, induces cell fate patterning among the Vulval Precursor Cells while the VU is the progenitor of a portion of the mature uterus. In the absence of either cell, a functional egg-bearing apparatus does not develop.

Recently, a conceptual model for the interaction of the AC/VU precursors has been proposed based on a hypothetical transcription factor inhibitor. I will discuss how I've translated this proposed theoretical model into a mathematical model. The theoretical model is found to make critically wrong predictions as seen through mathematical analysis and in silico experiments. I propose an alteration to the theoretical model, leading to its rescue. Both the alteration to the theoretical model and the predictions of the resulting mathematical model are consistent with in vivo results. I'll contrast this to another theoretical model currently under construction in the Sternberg Lab.

This work was done under the guidance of Professor Donald S. Cohen (Applied and Computational Math) and Professor Paul W. Sternberg (Biology).