Günter Wagner is the Alison Richard Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University known for his work on the evolution of development and gene regulation. He was born and raised in Vienna, Austria, and is a chemical engineer by training. He continued studies in zoology and mathematics at the University of Vienna. In 1979 he earned a Ph. D. in zoology for work under Rupert Riedl and Peter Schuster on mathematical models of evolution. From 1985 till 1991 he was on the faculty of the Department of Zoology at the University of Vienna, Austria, and in 1991 joined Yale University?s Department of Biology as a Full Professor. In 1997 he became the first chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in which capacity he served for eight years. Since 2010 he is a member of the Yale Systems Biology Institute. GPW is a Mac Arthur Fellow, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Günter Wagner is interested in the mechanisms underlying the evolutionary origin of complex characters. These include limbs and digits, the origin of cell types and the evolution of mammalian pregnancy. A key factor in the origin of novel cell types is the evolution of novel transcription factor activities that define the cell type specific trans-regulatory "landscape" responsible for cell type specific gene expression. The Wagner lab has shown that cell type specific gene expression in the mammalian decidual cell depends, in part, on changes to the HOXA11 and CEBPB proteins leading to neo-allosteric interactions with other transcription factors. These derived activities evolved coincidental with the novel cell type. In the context of the evolution of mammalian pregnancy the Wagner lab is focusing on the regulation of inflammatory processes in the uterus which are key for the ability of mammals to sustain invasive implantation and extended periods of gestation. This model was motivated by research into the reproduction of the South American opossum, Monodelphis domestica, which showed that opossum pregnancy is limited by an acute inflammatory response of the uterus after embryo attachment.

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Primary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology