LMU BioCenter, Div. Evolutionary Ecology
Großhaderner Str. 2
+49 (0)89 / 2180 74202
A striking feature of animal evolution is the diversity of their forms and their behaviors. Often, these traits evolve in concert, such as particular feeding behaviors and teeth morphology. The evolution of these traits entails changes in the genetic make-up of each species.
These changes translate at the level of the very cells that make or control the traits, at the level of entire tissues, and ultimately in the interaction between the animal and its environment.
With this perspective in mind, we are using closely related species of the fly genus Drosophila, including the model species Drosophila melanogaster, to pin down the genetic changes underlying the evolution of pigmentation patterns, courtship behaviors, and other reproduction-related traits. We are then studying the functional consequences of these changes at different scales of biological complexity, from cell to organism.
These evolutionary questions lead us to revisit two fundamental biological processes:
First, we are focusing on what determines the transcription of a gene in space and time. Enhancers, or cis-regulatory elements are stretches of DNA carrying a regulatory activity that modulates a gene's transcription. We have developed new quantitative methods to link atomic changes in an enhancer to the consequences on spatial gene expression and to phenotypes. We use enhancers controlling pigmentation genes expressed on fly wings as an experimental system.
Second, we are asking how a female (fly) chooses where to lay an egg. We have developed assays to track the behaviors of single females about to lay an egg. We can quantitatively compare any impaired fly (mutants, transgenics) to a wild type fly, to dissect the behavioral and neuronal bases of a female's choice.
Primary Technique(s): Molecular biology, imaging (confocal microscopy, electron microscopy, image quantification), transgenesis, formal genetics, behavioral assays.
Model Organism(s): Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila species (tens of them)