StoNets - Controlling and exploiting stochasticity in gene regulatory networks

One of the defining features of biological systems is their robustness, the ability to carry out their function in spite of perturbations. This is not because these systems are rigid, unresponsive to changes in their environment. Rather, robustness emerges from adaptive responses, through which biological systems adjust their behavior to changes in the environment. Recently developed technologies for measuring gene expression have shown that most of the information encoded in the genome is constantly “read” by molecular machines. Many genes are expressed to some level or another in a multitude of conditions and even under the same conditions their expression level varies between cells in a population.
The aim of StoNets is to understand how these so-called ‘stochastic’ variations in gene expression between individual cells are controlled and exploited to produce robust behaviors at the level of cells and organs. One of our aims is to understand how cell-to-cell variability in gene expression is controlled. We will specifically investigate how networks of regulators have evolved to control variability of gene expression within cells. Another aim of our project is to understand how gene expression is regulated in two very intriguing contexts. The first is in the diurnal cycle, which even cells that are isolated from the body exhibit. What is intriguing about this process is that in spite of the stochasticity in the expression of individual genes, distinct subsets of genes oscillate with distinct phases. That is, they experience the peak in expression level at different times during the day. The second system that we will study is the reprogramming of differentiated cells into pluripotent cells (the so-called somatic cell reprogramming). It appears that the efficiency of reprogramming is apparently determined by the stochastic entry of cells into a “reprogrammable” state and we would like to gain insight into the initial steps of this process.

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News & Events

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Contact Info

StoNets - Controlling and exploiting stochasticity in gene regulatory networks

Klingelbergstrasse 50 / 70
CH - 4056 Basel
Phone: (+41) 61 267 15 77