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Mathematical modeling of gene regulation in Drosophila

Biology: Robert Drewell (Amherst/Mount Holyoke Colleges)
Mathematics: Jacqueline Dresch (Amherst College)

The study of gene regulation has been an important topic in biology for decades. Accompanying the expansion in sequence data, new technologies have provided copious amounts of gene expression data suitable for modeling studies. To better understand the processes of gene regulation, mathematical models have been implemented that describe how DNA sequences direct differentiated gene expression, predict the expression of unknown genes or variants of genes, and reveal the driving forces behind gene regulation. The goal of this project is to combine mathematical modeling and synthetic biology approaches to investigate the complex molecular machinery involved in regulating gene expression in the early Drosophila embryo.

By implementing modeling approaches involving techniques from a wide range of areas, including data analysis, image processing, sensitivity analysis, model derivation, and parameter estimation, the modeling component of this project will focus on phenomena such as the binding preference of a particular transcription factor, the cooperativity of multiple transcription factors, or the quenching efficiency of particular transcription factors on others.

To further understand the activity of these transcription factor binding sites and how they contribute to overall gene regulation we will also utilize an integrated synthetic biology approach, combining bioinformatic predictions, mathematical modeling and in vivo reporter gene assays. The goal is to functionally decode the cis-regulatory network that controls gene expression along the anterio-posterior axis in the early embryo.

More details are available at: http://drewell.sites.hmc.edu/projects.html