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Francis Corson — Geometry, epistasis, and development


Francis Corson, Rockefeller University, New-York, USA

When :

Wednesday 30 November at 11am

Where :

C023 (RDC LR6 côté Centre Blaise Pascal)

Title :

Geometry, epistasis, and development

Abstract :

Decades of research into the genetic and molecular basis of development have revealed highly intricate networks that resist intuitive interpretation and systematic mathematical analysis. The theory of dynamical systems suggests an approach that abstracts away the particulars of molecular architecture in favor of a geometric representation of behavior. Vulval development in the nematode C. elegans is a classic model for the integration of two signaling pathways, induction by EGF and lateral inhibition through Notch. The fates adopted by cells of the vulva in different genetic backgrounds and in cell ablation experiments favor one geometric model and largely constrain its parameters. This model explains the phenotype of known mutations affecting vulval development and predicts strong non-additive interactions (epistasis) between mutations in the two signaling pathways. In addition, the contributions of intrinsic and extrinsic sources of variability manifested in partially penetrant phenotypes can be quantified by examining the correlations between cells. This geometric approach, which could readily be transposed to other systems, allows the structure and evolution of developmental pathways to be approached on a “phenotypic” level, complementary to a mechanistic description on the molecular level.

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