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Mechanism of core planar cell polarity complex function elucidated with single-molecule methods

Visiting Scholar or Visiting Postdoc Fellowships
Awarded in 2020


Visiting Scholar: Silas Nissen (University of Copenhagen)

Stanford Faculty Advisors: Jeffrey Axelrod (Pathology), Alex Dunn (Chemical Engineering)

During embryonic development, many epithelial cells must be oriented relative to their surroundings.  Directing the cells requires activity of the planar cell polarity (PCP) signaling pathway.  This pathway provides directionality within the layer of cells and distinguishes one end of the developing tissue from the other.  The molecular mechanism underlying PCP signaling remains poorly understood.  Silas hypothesizes that there exists a critical, switch-like transition (ultrasensitivity) between cells that do not achieve orientation and those that acquire directionality.  He proposes to study how molecular interactions produce this response with advanced microscopy techniques to image single-molecule interactions inside living cells. To do this, Silas will use fruit flies that have a suite of highly developed genetic tools and exhibit a well-characterized PCP patterning in their wings.  Acquiring this knowledge will contribute to preventing developmental anomalies such as heart and neural tube defects.