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.
- University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign - (Urbana, Illinois, United States), Postdoctoral Training 2011
- Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, minor in Computer Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign - (Urbana, Illinois, United States) 2007
- Harb, L., Chamakura, K., Khara, P., Christie, P. J., Young, R. y., & Zeng, L. (2020). ssRNA phage penetration triggers detachment of the F-pilus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 117(41), 25751-25758.
- Shao, Q., Trinh, J. T., & Zeng, L. (2019). High-resolution studies of lysis–lysogeny decision-making in bacteriophage lambda. JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY. 294(10), 3343-3349.
- Gordeeva, J., Morozova, N., Sierro, N., Isaev, A., Sinkunas, T., Tsvetkova, K., ... Severinov, K. (2018). BREX system of Escherichia coli distinguishes self from non-self by methylation of a specific DNA site. Nucleic Acids Research. 47(1), 253-265.
- Trinh, J. T., & Zeng, L. (2018). Structure Regulates Phage Lysis–Lysogeny Decisions. Trends in Microbiology. 27(1), 3-4.
- Guan, J., Ibarra, D., & Zeng, L. (2018). The role of side tail fibers during the infection cycle of phage lambda. VIROLOGY. 527, 57-63.