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Michelle Starz-Gaiano and Bradford Peercy

The JAK/STAT signaling pathway in a simple epithelium: A model for understanding molecular interpretation of spatial gradients

Research mentors: Michelle Starz-Gaiano (Biological Sciences), and Bradford Peercy (Mathematics and Statistics)

Starz-PeercyThe JAK/STAT signaling pathway plays a critical role in stem cells, immune function, and the progression of some cancers. We are studying JAK/STAT signaling in the somatic epithelial layer of Drosophila ovaries, where graded pathway activation is refined to instruct certain cells to become motile (those labeled in green in the egg chamber picture) while other cells remain behind in the epithelium (labeled in red). We are developing mathematical models to determine critical parameters in this signaling system. Our goal is to understand the minimal biological components that can convert a gradient of information into binary activation of a molecular pathway. UBM students working on this project will use a combination of genetic, cell biological, and mathematical approaches to address this aim. The picture shows an egg chamber in which border cells, marked in green have migrated away from their starting site, the anterior epitheliumk, shown on the left by the red cells.