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Mathematical Models of the Developing C. elegans Hermaphrodite Gonad


Goulet, David Michael (2006) Mathematical Models of the Developing C. elegans Hermaphrodite Gonad. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/D7C9-PA08.


The study of growing and developing organisms is a fascinating branch of experimental biology. Once created, cells must exchange chemical and physical cues with neighboring cells in order to grow, divide, and differentiate properly. In this thesis we study portions of development of the C. elegans hermaphrodite gonad, building mathematical models of the development process. Using our models, we show that vulval precursor cells make fate decisions under a flexible program that takes advantage of inherent chemical oscillations. This flexibility allows the cells to react more sensitively to weak signaling gradients and to the actions of neighboring cells. With our mathematical models, we also show that the development of the anchor cell cannot proceed properly using the currently known decision mechanisms. We draw upon knowledge of homologous proteins in D. melanogaster to propose a modification to the current theory on anchor cell development. Our models suggest that this modified mechanism, though not yet identified in C. elegans, is sufficient to specify anchor cell fates in accordance with experimental observations. In studying our mathematical models, novel analytical techniques were developed to understand the asymptotic behavior of systems of delay differential equations.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:anchor cell; asymptotics; C. elegans; delay differential equations; MAP kinase; vulva
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Applied And Computational Mathematics
Awards:The W.P. Carey and Co., Inc., Prize in Applied Mathematics, 2006.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Sternberg, Paul W. (advisor)
  • Cohen, Donald S. (advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Cohen, Donald S. (chair)
  • Meiron, Daniel I.
  • Petrasek, Danny
  • Sternberg, Paul W.
Defense Date:5 May 2006
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05092006-160328
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:5184
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:15 May 2006
Last Modified:18 Dec 2020 01:57

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