Resolving the gene regulatory network for a fruit fly pigmentation trait whose modification underlies climate-driven phenotypic variation
Jenna Rose Rock
Species are in the midst of surviving changing climates that require ancestral trait phenotypes to convert to derived states better adapted to the present conditions. Adaptations can occur through genetic differences, raising questions how such differences translate into phenotypic change. A prerequisite to answering these evolutionary questions is to understand the genetic basis for trait development. In animals, traits are made by developmental programs known as gene regulatory networks (GRNs) that are hardwired in genomic DNA sequence. Each GRN includes a fraction of the genes within an organism’s genome, notably some that encode transcription factors that regulate the expression of the trait-making differentiation genes. This regulation occurs by certain transcription factors interacting with short DNA sequences, called binding sites, in gene regions known as cis-regulatory elements (CREs). For any CRE, its ability to activate gene expression in specific cell types and developmental times is due to the binding sites it possesses for a particular combination of transcription factors. To date, a GRN for a climate adapted trait has not been resolved. Thus, understanding how GRNs and their genes and CRE constituents facilitate or stymie adaptation remains speculative. For the Berry Summer Thesis Institute research, I propose to resolve the GRN responsible for a pigmentation pattern on the abdomen of Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies. Preliminary work has revealed many of the genes for this GRN, though the connections between transcription factors and CRE binding sites remain largely unknown. By using genetic, bioinformatic, and microscopy approaches, I will resolve the important connections that orchestrate this GRN’s operation. Success here will enable future efforts to reveal how this GRN has been reformulated to deal with differing climates, findings that bear upon the genetic underpinnings of animal adaptations more broadly.
Tom M. Williams
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Good Health and Well-Being
"Resolving the gene regulatory network for a fruit fly pigmentation trait whose modification underlies climate-driven phenotypic variation" (2021). Stander Symposium Projects. 2120.