- 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, Zeng, L. Structure Regulates Phage Lysis-Lysogeny Decisions. Trends Microbiol. 2019;27 (1):3-4.
Guan, J, Ibarra, D, Zeng, L. The role of side tail fibers during the infection cycle of phage lambda. Virology. 2019;527 :57-63.
Gordeeva, J, Morozova, N, Sierro, N, Isaev, A, Sinkunas, T, Tsvetkova, K et al.. BREX system of Escherichia coli distinguishes self from non-self by methylation of a specific DNA site. Nucleic Acids Res. 2019;47 (1):253-265.
Shao, Q, Cortes, MG, Trinh, JT, Guan, J, Balázsi, G, Zeng, L et al.. Coupling of DNA Replication and Negative Feedback Controls Gene Expression for Cell-Fate Decisions. iScience. 2018;6 :1-12.
Wang, X, Park, S, Zeng, L, Jain, A, Ha, T. Toward Single-Cell Single-Molecule Pull-Down. Biophys. J. 2018;115 (2):283-288.
Trinh, JT, Alkahtani, MH, Rampersaud, I, Rampersaud, A, Scully, M, Young, RF et al.. Fluorescent nanodiamond-bacteriophage conjugates maintain host specificity. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2018;115 (6):1427-1436.
Guan, J, Shi, X, Burgos, R, Zeng, L. Visualization of phage DNA degradation by a type I CRISPR-Cas system at the single-cell level. Quant Biol. 2017;5 (1):67-75.
Cortes, MG, Trinh, JT, Zeng, L, Balázsi, G. Late-Arriving Signals Contribute Less to Cell-Fate Decisions. Biophys. J. 2017;113 (9):2110-2120.
Trinh, JT, Zeng, L. Virus interactions: cooperation or competition? Future Microbiol. 2017;12 :561-564.
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.