I use Dictyostelium to identify and study genes involved in cell fate choices.
We expect that heterogeneity in cell populations will allow some cells to behave different from others, also when it comes down to cell fate choices.
Possible heterogeneity factors may include the metabolic state of cells, their cytosolic calcium levels and their position in the cell cycle, which are all known to have a big impact on cell fate choices.
Nonetheless, we do not know much about the gene networks connecting heterogeneity to the eventual cell fate choices. Furthermore, it is largely unclear how such heterogeneity is actually set up in cell populations and how it allows development to occur in such a reproducible fashion.
With the identification of cell fate choice genes we may now be able to address these questions.