Bringing New Methods and Model Organisms into the Pursuit of the Genetic, Developmental, and Evolutionary Basis of a Morphological Trait
Jada Brown, Logan Brubaker, Allison Pavlus, Victoria Fowler
The development of animal form is directed by the operation of Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) that utilize transcription factor genes to control the spatial, temporal, and even sex-specific patterns of trait-building realizator genes. These patterns of gene expression result from the encoded GRN transcription factor proteins interacting with binding sites in the cis-regulatory elements (CREs) of their directly-regulated target genes. Since many transcription factors and realizator genes are older than the traits they govern, trait evolution arises from genetic changes that altered the uses of these more ancient genes. A major goal for the field of evolutionary-developmental (or evo-devo) biology is to understand how traits originate, diversify, and become lost by changes to key regulatory genes and their connections made with CREs for the ultimate realizator genes of GRNs. We are investigating the evolution of a GRN for a rapidly evolving fruit fly pigmentation trait present in an experimentally convenient model species, and we propose to bring genetic investigations into closely-related emerging model species. Our studies will focus on how the male-specific pattern of abdominal pigmentation emerged in the fruit fly lineage of D. melanogaster and how this trait was modified and lost in related species. In order to reach our goals, experiments and methods will have to confront several challenges. These include identifying the critical CREs with massive genomes, reconciling how gene expression patterns can evolve when regulated by multiple redundant CREs, characterizing gene function in multiple species, and testing the necessity and sufficiency for cases of gene function and CRE evolution in species possessing the ancestral, derived, modified, and lost pigmentation trait. While these goals seem daunting, success will undoubtably push the field of evo-devo much closer to one of its most ambitious goals.
Tom Williams, Melissa Williams
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences
Institutional Learning Goals
"Bringing New Methods and Model Organisms into the Pursuit of the Genetic, Developmental, and Evolutionary Basis of a Morphological Trait" (2023). Stander Symposium Projects. 2898.