Towards a Quantitative Understanding of Cellular Decision-Making in Tissue Development and Beyond


Towards a Quantitative Understanding of Cellular Decision-Making in Tissue Development and Beyond

Dr. Gregory T. Reeves, Texas A&M University

11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m., March 1, 2022   |   Carey Auditorium, 107 Hesburgh Library

Human health depends crucially on the ability of our cells to make proper decisions in light of extracellular signals. Indeed, cell-cell signaling and decision-making apply to a multitude of multicellular phenomena, including cancer, immunity, stem cell decisions, and, in particular, tissue development. My current focus is to deduce the rules of tissue development to advance signaling-based therapies and tissue engineering design. However, tissue development is a complex process: dynamic signaling, in the form of diffusible proteins, results in differential gene expression, which is refined by feedbacks and other regulatory mechanisms to ultimately result in robust differentiation. To address the complexity and dynamics of development, my lab synergizes quantitative measurements in live tissues together with mechanistic computational modeling. 

Dr. Gregory T. Reeves

We are studying the highly tractable, 1-3 hr old Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) embryo, which has a simple geometry, a short life cycle, and advanced tools for imaging, genetics, and transgenesis. These advantages make Drosophila the premiere model organism for quantitative and computational studies of tissue development. In the seminar, I will discuss our discoveries in the highly conserved NF-κB/Dorsal signaling pathway, which controls immunity, inflammation, and apoptosis, and has been implicated in tumor progression. At this embryonic stage, NF-κB/Dorsal signaling establishes broad patterns of gene expression and divides the embryo into future muscle, neuronal, and epidermal fates. We used modeling and experiment synergistically to make novel discoveries of the spreading and cellular interpretation of the NF-κB/Dorsal signal. These discoveries have revealed previously unknown mechanisms behind the robustness of NF-κB signaling.

Most signaling pathways, including NF-κB/Dorsal, are highly conserved from flies to humans, and impact not only tissue development, but also adult biology and disease states. As such, our work on the NF-κB/Dorsal complements our understanding of inflammation, innate immunity, and tumor progression in mammals, in a multicellular context. My long-term goal is to deduce the rules of life in other areas of multicellular biology (stem cell decisions, immunity, etc.) to aid in design of therapies for human health.

Dr. Gregory T. Reeves earned bachelor’s degrees in Chemical Engineering and in Mathematics from University of Florida in 2002.  He attended graduate school at Princeton University, where he studied computational modeling of tissue patterning in the fruit fly under the tutelage of Dr. Stanislav Shvartsman.  He was a Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech from 2007 to 2010 under Dr. Angela Stathopoulos and Dr. Scott Fraser.  He focused on quantitative imaging and image analysis of the dorsal-ventral axis of the early fly embryo.

He started his lab at NC State University in 2010, and moved to Texas A&M University in 2020, where he has continued to study how cells make transcriptional decisions in vivo during tissue patterning, using the fly embryo as a model system.  His lab focuses on bringing together cutting edge live, quantitative imaging and mathematical modeling.  He has been granted an NSF CAREER award and an R01 award from the NIH to study quantitative principles of tissue patterning.