Research Interests

My research has focused on how genes control the formation and differentiation of animal body parts and how changes in the way these genes are regulated during embryonic development shape animal diversity. Through detailed studies of the model organism the fruit fly, my laboratory has analyzed how certain types of regulatory proteins, called selector proteins, control the development of body appendages. Our work has revealed that selector proteins control the deployment of many genes by binding to control regions in the DNA sequence surrounding these genes, called cis-regulatory elements (CREs). Advances in understanding the genetic regulation of development of this model animal have provided the foundation for understanding how morphology evolves. Most importantly, the conserved sequences of selector proteins and the modular architecture of gene cis-regulatory regions led me to suggest that changes in CREs play a primary role in the evolution of animal form. In a series of recent studies, we have shown how the gain and loss of various traits, such as a spot on an insect wing, has occurred by the modification of CREs, There is now abundant support for the general idea that morphology largely evolves via changes in DNA regulatory sequences.

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Primary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology