Thurs, June 29th, Breakout Session
Moderator: Suraj Bhat, Ph.D. (University of California Los Angeles)
The heterogeneity of gene expression in single cells is well established however it is unclear if this heterogeneity has any relationship to the morphological and/or molecular phenotype of a tissue or an organ. In this session we will ask questions to elucidate the challenges, both technical as well as conceptual, in understanding the role of the cellular variability (as assessed by gene expression) in the context of multicellularity of tissues and organs. We will explore the possible role of cellular heterogeneity in terminal differentiation. At the current state of our knowledge, we do not have a handle on whether the variation in the abundance of a gene transcript from cell to cell is because of the fluctuations intrinsic to the gene activity or whether it is the other cellular components that determine the variability between cells. In either case the question remains – what is regulated?
Some of the questions that we will address (not necessarily in the order listed):
- Is heterogeneity causal or a result of the gene activity?
- Is heterogeneity functional?
- What is the relationship between the tissue /organ phenotype to the single cell?
- Is heterogeneity the pathway to terminal differentiation?
- Do different developmental programs entail specific states (stages) of heterogeneity?
- What are the deterministic sources of cellular variability and how are they maintained?
- Is deterministic variability important and what purpose does it serve?
- Do we understand the link between molecular variability and the phenotypic variability between individual cells? (Technically how do we study heterogeneity in single cells?)