- Graduate Education
- Ph.D University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2007)
- Postdoc University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2007-2011)
- Joined Texas A&M in 2012
Cellular Decision Making in Bacteria
Living systems make decisions by integrating information from their environments in order to optimize their own fitness. This decision-making process has many intricacies, with a dual nature characterized by stochasticity and determinism, and considerable effort has been dedicated to characterizing the factors contributing to cell-fate heterogeneity. Our primary goal is to determine how multiple environmental and genetic factors, some deterministic and some stochastic, impact developmental outcomes. We choose to study paradigms of cellular decision-making such as bacteriophage lambda lytic-lysogenic development to simplify the complicated nature of cell-fate selection. By distilling the study of a ubiquitous and vital process into basic questions, we hope to generate new insights into how decision-making affects cellular development and differentiation in higher organisms.
We utilize high-resolution live-cell fluorescence microscopy, single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, quantitative data analysis, and simple mathematical modeling to mechanistically dissect the decision-making processes at single-cell/molecule levels. Our favorite biological models are the lysis-lysogeny systems of bacteria and their viruses, like E. coli being infected by paradigm phages lambda and P1. By revisiting established systems with a new, technologically advanced perspective, we are able to reveal previously hidden complexities to better understand the nature of living cells.
To put it simply, we ask this: How do cells make decisions?
Our simple answer: Well, they do it quite beautifully!
Trinh, JT, Székely, T, Shao, Q, Balázsi, G, Zeng, L. Cell fate decisions emerge as phages cooperate or compete inside their host. Nat Commun. 2017;8 :14341.
Wang, G, Zhang, R, Gomez, ME, Yang, L, Levy Zamora, M, Hu, M et al.. Persistent sulfate formation from London Fog to Chinese haze. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2016;113 (48):13630-13635.
Shao, Q, Trinh, JT, McIntosh, CS, Christenson, B, Balázsi, G, Zeng, L et al.. Lysis-lysogeny coexistence: prophage integration during lytic development. Microbiologyopen. 2017;6 (1):.
Fan, X, Duan, X, Tong, Y, Huang, Q, Zhou, M, Wang, H et al.. The Global Reciprocal Reprogramming between Mycobacteriophage SWU1 and Mycobacterium Reveals the Molecular Strategy of Subversion and Promotion of Phage Infection. Front Microbiol. 2016;7 :41.
Shao, Q, Hawkins, A, Zeng, L. Phage DNA dynamics in cells with different fates. Biophys. J. 2015;108 (8):2048-60.
Fan, X, Yan, J, Xie, L, Zeng, L, Young, RF 3rd, Xie, J et al.. Genomic and proteomic features of mycobacteriophage SWU1 isolated from China soil. Gene. 2015;561 (1):45-53.
Zeng, L, Golding, I. Following cell-fate in E. coli after infection by phage lambda. J Vis Exp. 2011; (56):e3363.
Rothenberg, E, Sepúlveda, LA, Skinner, SO, Zeng, L, Selvin, PR, Golding, I et al.. Single-virus tracking reveals a spatial receptor-dependent search mechanism. Biophys. J. 2011;100 (12):2875-82.
Zeng, L, Skinner, SO, Zong, C, Sippy, J, Feiss, M, Golding, I et al.. Decision making at a subcellular level determines the outcome of bacteriophage infection. Cell. 2010;141 (4):682-91.