Genetically identical individuals are never phenotypically identical even in the same environment. How does this non-genetic, phenotypic variation arise and what are the consequences for the survival of the individual and of the population? These are fundamental questions in evolution, organismal development and disease.
My lab's research examines how the complex interplay between genetics, epigenetic mechanisms, environment and stochastic fluctuations generate non-genetic, phenotypic variation.
In particular, we are interested in the design features of biological networks that minimize and/or enhance phenotypic variation in bacterial populations that are involved in:
- cellular decision-making and differentiation;
- cooperation in bacterial communities; and
- the regulation of specialized functions required for bacterial pathogenesis.
To reveal these design features we use a combination of experimental and theoretical tools to identify how the components of natural circuits work together. In addition, we gain valuable information by constructing artificial networks with novel properties and applications. The results of these studies will be applied to the development of new therapeutic strategies to combat two major problems in modern medicine; bacterial biofilm formation and antibiotic persistence/resistance.