Vinal Lakhani

Vinal Lakhani
Undergraduate Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Bioinformatics & Computational Biology
PI: Tim Elston
Research Summary: I am studying chemical gradient sensing in the yeast pheromone system. Yeast, which exist in two haploid types, mate by fusing into a single diploid cell. Each type secretes a pheromone to which the other responds. Upon binding a pheromone molecule, the cell must determine the uphill direction of the gradient to find a partner. Although most of the proteins and their interactions are known, the complexity of the phenomenon and protein-protein interaction network demands a systems scale approach for fruitful study. Furthermore, the weak binding rate of the pheromone receptor ( ~ 5 (uM*s)^-1 ) leads to calculations suggesting a difference of <1% between the number of bound receptors in the front and back of the cell. To elucidate the noisy behavior of this system I am developing and using computational approaches to study the spatio-temporal distribution of bound receptors on the cell surface. I will also be able to test proposed mechanisms by which the cell improves the gradient resolution.