Tony Tsai, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Developmental Biology

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Research Interests

Embryo development is remarkably robust. Despite environmental fluctuations and the noisy nature of biochemical processes, tissue patterns and morphology are often highly stereotypic. Building tissues in such a reproducible fashion is not trivial. Artificial tissues or organoid culture grown ex vivo are highly variable, and these inconsistencies are a big setback for their potential medical applications. We believe valuable lessons can be learned by asking how embryos build tissues reproducibly. What are the sources of variations in a developmental process, and how do embryos buffer these variations and reduce errors to develop robustly?

We are particularly interested in the crosstalk between biochemical signaling and cell mechanics. How do cells integrate biochemical and mechanical inputs to make reliable decisions on what cell types they become, where they migrate, and what structure they collectively build? Using zebrafish as the primary model, our lab will address these questions by interdisciplinary approaches such as quantitative live microscopy, biomechanical assays, CRISPR genetics, single cell genomics, and computational modeling.


Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, 2014-2020 (Advisor: Sean Megason)

PhD, Department of Chemical and Systems Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine 2007-2013 (Advisors: James Ferrell and Julie Theriot)

MS, Department of Biomathematics, University of California Los Angeles, 2006-2007 (Advisor: James Liao)

MD, National Taiwan University, 1997-2005

BS (Mathematics), National Taiwan University, 1997-2005

Honors and Awards

K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, 2017-Present

Damon Runyon Cancer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2014-2017

Stanford Graduate Fellowship, 2007-2013

Baxter Foundation Fellowship, 2007-2013

Selected Publications

Tony Y.-C. Tsai, Mateusz Sikora, Peng Xia, Tugba Colak-Champollion, Holger Knaut, Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, Sean G. Megason, “An adhesion code enables robust pattern formation during tissue morphogenesis”, Science 2020 Oct 02: Vol. 370, Issue 6512, pp. 113-116

Tony Y.-C. Tsai, Sean R. Collins, Caleb K. Chan, Pui-ying Lam, Amalia Hadjitheodorou, Sunny S. Lou, Hee Won Yang, Julianne Jorgensen, Felix Ellett, Daniel Irimia, Michael W. Davidson, Robert S. Fischer, Anna Huttenlocher, Tobias Meyer, James E. Ferrell, Jr., and Julie A. Theriot, “Efficient front-rear coupling in neutrophil chemotaxis by dynamic myosin II localization”, Developmental Cell 2019 Apr 22;49(2):189-205.e6

Tony Y.-C. Tsai*, Julie A. Theriot, James E. Ferrell, Jr., “Changes of oscillatory dynamics in the cell cycle of early Xenopus laevis embryos”, PLoS Biology 2014 Feb 11 12 (2): e1001788
Corresponding author

James E. Ferrell, Jr., Tony Y.-C. Tsai, Qiong Yang, “Modeling the cell cycle: Why do certain circuits oscillate?” Cell 2011 Mar 18;144(6):874-85.

Tony Y.-C. Tsai†, Yoon Sup Choi, Wenzhe Ma, Joseph R. Pomerening, Chao Tang, James E. Ferrell, Jr., “Robust, tunable biological oscillations from interlinked positive and negative feedback loops”, Science 2008 Jul 4;321(5885):126-9. † co-first author

Wilson W. Wong, Tony Y.-C. Tsai, James C. Liao, “Single cell zeroth-order protein degradation enhances the robustness of synthetic oscillator”, Mol Syst Biol2007; 3: 130 (2007)