NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering


Research Areas
Brief Description of Research
1. Mechanobiology of embryonic polarity establishment
2. Genetic analysis of soma-germ fate determination


  Cell polarity, establishment of spatial asymmetry within a cell, is necessary for diverse processes in living organisms. Dedicated polarity proteins generate and maintain cellular asymmetry, leading to establishment of functional architecture in many types of cells. Despite the conserved role of polarity proteins, a fundamental question remains unanswered: How do developmental cues break cellular symmetry along the body axis during embryogenesis? Our group is interested in understanding the mechanics of 1) initiation of cell polarisation and 2) spatial patterning of cellular asymmetry. A simple model system, C. elegans zygote, provides the unique opportunity to explore such initial procedures in cell polarisation, as the zygotes do not rely on pre-localised proteins/RNAs or extrinsic cues to trigger asymmetry but instead undergo “de novo” polarisation. By taking multi-disciplinary approach with genetics, biochemistry, and modern imaging technology, our group aims at1. Defining the nature of the cue that initiates polarisation2. Assessing the mechanics of spatial patterning of cellular asymmetry3. Understanding the role of polarity kinases in germ-soma dichotomyThese views will delve into the basic principles of cell polarity and yield insights into how a developing embryo commits to somatic or germ cell fates with precision and accuracy. The molecular similarity of C. elegans to other systems makes it very likely that this project will highlight highly conserved mechanisms and lead to insights into asymmetric division in stem cells, prevention of cancer, and tissue regeneration.