Larra Trinidad

Epithelial morphogenesis: coordinating planar polarity and tissue mechanics

About me

I completed my MSci in Mathematics and Physics at University College London. My Master’s project in fluid mechanics was on the theoretical modelling of fluid-body interactions. It was inspiring to see how my research project, which focussed on small-scale bodies, could be applied to a variety of developmental biological problems, and how we are able to use mathematics to elucidate such problems to a greater extent. After taking modules in biomathematics, molecular biophysics and advanced mathematical modelling techniques, my research interests were made clear. Having both a strong background in mathematical science and a passion in applying my knowledge to biological problems, pursuing research in quantitative biology was set as my ambition.

My project

Quantitative studies of morphogenesis have become prominent in developmental biology. The Fat-Dachsous pathway is a highly conserved system that coordinates planar polarity in epithelial tissues. I am investigating the interplay between the Fat-Dachsous pathway and cell mechanics in Drosophila melanogaster as an example of how biochemical and mechanical signals are integrated in development. This project will combine live-imaging methods with force-inference techniques to investigate questions such as:
• How does the Fat-Dachsous pathway influence cell behaviours and cell movements?
• How does cell mechanics (e.g. junctional tension) affect Fat-Dachsous localisation?
In my project, vertex models of epithelial morphogenesis will be developed to analyse the effect of forces and Fat-Dachsous-Dachs mutations on cell behaviours in the fly wing. Having the opportunity to verify theoretical computational models through experimental results in the laboratory is a unique advantage to have and will allow me to efficiently couple vertex models of epithelial tissues with subcellular models of planar polarity dynamics.