Balancing cell specification

How are distinct progenitor populations generated in the correct proportions during development?

While the signalling molecules that act in the maintenance and differentiation of neuromesodermal progenitors, we know little of how these signals are interpreted at the single cell level in order to generate a well proportioned body axis. Zebrafish embryos have several experimental advantages that allow us to explore the dynamics of neuromesodermal progenitor development at single-cell resolution and in live embryos. We have developed a series of imaging and image analysis techniques:

Firstly, we can quantify gene expression variation between single cells in intact embryos as they exit the tailbud and undergo collective cell fate specification. This makes use of a high signal:noise fluorescent technique termed Hybridisation Chain Reaction.

Secondly, we can follow neuromesodermal derivatives by live confocal imaging and cell tracking to follow their lineage decisions and dynamic cell behaviours in real-time.

Finally, I am collaborating with Scott Fraser’s Translation Imaging Centre at the University of Southern California to develop inducible live reporters of gene expression to follow gene expression dynamics and correlate this with cell fate.