Gene Regulatory Networks course at the MBL
By Dr. Tyler Moore
I had the wonderful opportunity to spend two weeks studying in the Gene Regulatory Networks in Development course at the Marine Biology Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The course was led by Dr. Scott Barolo (U Michigan Medical School) and Dr. Isabelle Peter (Cal Tech) with contributions from many additional faculty.
The course focused on ways to experimentally and computationally analyze and visually represent the regulatory networks that control gene expression (“Gene Regulatory Networks”). Integrated networks of gene expression control developmental processes ranging from sea urchin endoderm and mesoderm specification, arthropod body segment patterning, development of limbs, determination of organ size, and more.
In addition to hearing from faculty about their research into gene regulatory networks, I also had the opportunity to do some hands-on learning of computational tools for analyzing and representing gene regulatory networks. Here is a regulatory network my group put together on sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling in patterning the posterior versus anterior hand during limb development. The arrows represent inducers of a gene and the blocks represent inhibitors of a gene. The colored lines are signals that are present in a particular region and the grey lines are signals that are absent from a particular region.
Although the class was rather high paced, we did have some down time. We had the opportunity to tour the MBL rare books collection, which included early editions of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s drawings, Newton’s publication describing his new telescope design, early Ernst Haeckel work, and hand-painted illustrations from the Captain Cook voyages. I even had the opportunity to hold Thomas Hunt Morgan’s Nobel Prize (awarded for his uncovering the role of chromosomes in inheritance).
I was in awe to be surrounded by so many people with vast and diverse experiences, both the faculty and the students. I’m very grateful to have been a part of this class. I received more advice and instruction than I can describe in this post, and I am excited to put it to use in our classes and research.