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4th year Biological Sciences student
Werner Lab, Michigan Tech University
Drosophila gene regulation in the formation of complex color patterns in yellow Evolution of guttifera
Drosophila guttifera is a non-model fruit fly species that displays a beautiful spotted pattern all along its body and wings. In insects, the yellow gene is necessary for the development of black pigmentation. In developing D. guttifera pupae, yellow is expressed in the same locations where black spots will form on the adult body. Our lab works with the developmental genetics of D. guttifera, aiming to identify the gene-regulatory networks that control the formation of the spots on the abdomen and wings. Using a transgenic technique developed by my advisor Dr. Werner, we identified one cis-regulatory element (a.k.a. “enhancer”) that controls the multi-spotted yellow gene expression pattern on the abdomen. We further identified several toolkit genes that may activate the yellow enhancer in distinct spot locations. Toolkit genes are interesting because they build the embryos of all animals. Some toolkit genes are proto-oncogenes that cause cancer when they become upregulated later in life. In insects, however, proto-oncogenes shape the beautiful body and wing color patterns during the late developmental stages of life. We found five toolkit genes that are candidate inducers of the yellow enhancer: the morphogens wingless, hedgehog, and decapentaplegic, and the transcription factors abdominal A and zerknullt. This research has helped to further the understanding of how changes in gene expression patterns can lead to phenotypic novelties in animals.
Biography: Rebecca Hobmeier is a fourth year Biological Sciences student with minors in Biochemistry and Microbiology at Michigan Technological University. She became involved in Dr. Thomas Werner’s research lab her first year. In addition to staying involved in this research throughout her four years, she has recently become the lab manager and has been accepted into the Honors Research Program. During the summers of 2015 and 2016, she interned at 3M within the Infection Prevention Division. Her 2015 internship was spent in the Perioperative Product Development Lab performing microbiological experiments and testing different chemistries involved in the development of Clostridium difficile spore removal wipes. During her 2016 internship, she worked on the creation of a malleable tissue retraction device for use in open abdominal surgery. Rebecca spends some of her free time volunteering and job shadowing the pathologist Dr. Petio Kotov at Portage Health.
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