Organisms from bacteria to humans employ complex biochemical or genetic oscillatory networks, termed biological clocks, to drive a wide variety of essential cellular and developmental processes for robust timing. Despite their complexity and diversity, these clocks seem to share some core architectures that are highly conserved from species to species, suggesting an essential role of network structures underlying clock functioning.
The Yang lab, bridging biophysics and systems & synthetic biology, has integrated modeling with experiments in minimal systems to elucidate universal physical mechanisms underlying the complex processes. In this talk, I will focus on our recent efforts in answering several fundamental questions regarding the design and behaviors of cell cycles and embryonic developmental patterns. Computationally, we have identified network motifs, notably incoherent inputs, that universally enhance systems' robust performance. Experimentally, we developed a unique synthetic-cell system to analyze circuits and functions of robustness and tunability in cell-sized microfluidic droplets. We also explore the role of energy and mechanical and biochemical signaling in spatiotemporal patterns.