Assistant Professor, Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore
+65 6601 1552 ext 11552
Level 9 T-Lab
National University of Singapore
5A Engineering Drive 1
Mechanics of Development Lab (MoD)
Mechanotransduction in Tissues Group
Basal protrusions stimulate rosette formation during cell intercalation
Clustering drives formation of subcellular morphogen gradients
The lab focuses on the application of biophysics and live imaging to better understand how organisms reliably develop (i.e. how is development so robust?). We use Drosophila and fission yeast as model organisms to explore robustness in decision-making. We apply a broad approach to problems, combining live imaging, advanced image analysis and mathematical modeling.
Position can be defined by the use of spatially extended gradients of signaling molecules. Since biological processes are inherently noisy, these gradients require mechanisms to ensure that they are precisely interpreted. We examine how the mechanisms of gradient formation affect the robustness of the downstream signaling. We are also probing how morphogens can be reliably interpreted prior to obtaining their steady-state profile.
Temporal variations in development
A developing organism needs to regulate the onset of different process temporally as well as spatially. We explore temporal variability in different processes during development. We use lightsheet microscopy to examine single cells while also keeping a global view of the embryo. Such technology also has low photobleaching, allowing visualisation of development over many hours.
Even between closely related animals there can be considerable variation in body size. Yet, for example, organs are typically positioned in the correct relative position for each specimen. Using lightsheet microscopy, we explore Drosophila embryogenesis to examine when and how such scaling decisions are made.
TOOLS AND METHODS
We use state-of-the-art lightsheet microscopy. This enables us to image entire developing organisms in toto while also having sufficient spatial and temporal resolution to probe single cell behavior.
The lab produces large amounts of quantitative data. We develop sophisticated methodologies to handle terabytes of data and extract the biological relevant information.
Mathematical modeling is used to make predictions about system behavior. Methods used include reaction-diffusion equations and Gillespie stochastic simulations. We are also interested in exploring how gene regulatory networks ensure robust decision-making.
2010 – 2013 EIPOD Fellow in the groups of Dr Lars Hufnagel and Dr Eileen Furlong at EMBL-Heidelberg, Germany
2007 – 2010 Postdoctoral researcher in the group of Professor Martin Howard at John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK
2007 PhD (Theoretical physics) University of Oxford
2004 MPhys 1st class, Cambridge University
2003 BA 1st class, Cambridge University
- Saunders TE. Imag(in)ing growth and form. Mech. Dev. 2017;. [PMID: 28351699]
- Sun Z, Amourda C, Shagirov M, Hara Y, Saunders TE, and Toyama Y. Basolateral protrusion and apical contraction cooperatively drive Drosophila germ-band extension. Nat. Cell Biol. 2017;. [PMID: 28346438]
- Amourda C, and Saunders TE. Gene expression boundary scaling and organ size regulation in the Drosophila embryo. Dev. Growth Differ. 2017;. [PMID: 28093727]
- Singh AP, Galland R, Finch-Edmondson ML, Grenci G, Sibarita J, Studer V, Viasnoff V, and Saunders TE. 3D Protein Dynamics in the Cell Nucleus. Biophys. J. 2017; 112(1):133-142. [PMID: 28076804]
- Krieger JW, Singh AP, Bag N, Garbe CS, Saunders TE, Langowski J, and Wohland T. Imaging fluorescence (cross-) correlation spectroscopy in live cells and organisms. Nat Protoc 2015; 10(12):1948-74. [PMID: 26540588]
- Richards DM, and Saunders TE. Spatiotemporal analysis of different mechanisms for interpreting morphogen gradients. Biophys. J. 2015; 108(8):2061-73. [PMID: 25902445]
- Saunders TE. Aggregation-fragmentation model of robust concentration gradient formation. Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys 2015; 91(2):022704. [PMID: 25768528]