Formation of Cellular States

A cell state, or the phenotypic behavior of an individual cell, is ultimately is governed by the gene products expressed within. Classically, groups of genes can be controlled together through the action of transcription factors or signaling cascades.. We study these behaviors through systems biology approaches to understand the molecular mechanisms in cells that group genes into functional networks, and ultimately states of behavior. Our early work has focused on enhancers and regulatory RNAs but we are broadly interested in all mechanisms by which cells can organize variation in gene expression at individual loci into functional phenotypes in development and cancer.

Schematic illustrating cell states that are stabilized relative to one another by molecular barriers to interconversion (wells).  Some cell behaviors may be more closely related with relatively small barriers to switching between functional cell states. We've identified states with low barriers to interconversion in embryonic stem cells and study their properties.