Using in silico and in vivo approaches to reveal the gene regulatory network responsible for the development and evolution of a fruit fly trait
Matthew Dennis Spangler, Michael Weinstein
Animal traits develop through the expressions and actions of numerous genes that comprise a gene regulatory network (GRN). For each GRN, its underlying patterns of expression are controlled by combinations of transcription factor proteins interacting with binding site sequences within cis-regulatory elements (CREs). These interactions drive cell-type and developmental stage-specific transcriptional activation or repression. Function altering mutations in CREs are suspected to be a common source of phenotypic variation within a species, and for the origin, modifications, and losses of traits that differentiate species. Unfortunately, for any trait and its generative GRN, finding CREs remains a slow and resource intensive endeavor. In this study, we sought to better understand the GRN responsible for the male-specific (dimorphic) pattern of abdomen pigmentation of Drosophila (D.) melanogaster fruit flies. This pigmentation trait is a leading model for evolution and development (evo-devo) as variation exists within this species, and between related species. We used an in silico approach to identify predicted CREs (pCREs) that control novel genes within this GRN. Through in vivo assays we demonstrated that many pCREs activate expression in the fruit fly abdomen at the correct developmental stage. Through CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, we aim to demonstratewhether some of these pCREs are necessary for the D. melanogaster trait, and which gene’s expression they regulate. By reporter transgene assays, we will compare the CRE activity of related sequences from fruit fly species with the derived (dimorphic) and ancestral (monomorphic) pigmentation. This will reveal whether the CRE activities are old and conserved, or modern and perhaps represent some of the GRN modifications responsible for the dimorphic trait. Ultimately, this work will expand the understanding of a leading evo-devo model trait, and perhaps demonstrate an experimental framework by which animal trait evolution can be routinely studied.
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
"Using in silico and in vivo approaches to reveal the gene regulatory network responsible for the development and evolution of a fruit fly trait" (2022). Stander Symposium Projects. 2404.