Research Projects

Convergent Evolution

Convergent evolution of genotypes and phenotypes.

We develop and employ methods to study convergent changes at the genotype level. Namely, these methods correlate phenotypic change along a species tree with the evolutionary rates of specific genetic elements. Studies to date have covered convergence in marine mammals, subterranean mammals, and in lifespan variation.

Active lab members: Wynn Meyer, Raghav Partha, Amanda Kowalczyk, Jerrica Jamison

Female-Male Co-evolution in Lepidoptera

Reproductive proteins in butterflies mediate a complex relationship between the sexes.

Many studies have established that reproductive proteins are one of the most rapidly evolving protein classes due to positively selected changes. The driving forces behind this selection are thought to involve competition between mates and conflict between the sexes. In collaboration with the Morehouse lab, we are using the the Cabbage White Butterfly, Pieris rapae, as a model to interpret the molecular and physiological divergence of both female and male reproductive proteins, as well as their resulting co-evolution.

Active lab members: Melissa Plakke

Coevolutionary Signatures

Evolutionary Rate Covariation (ERC)

Genes that function in a common pathway or complex exihibit signatures of co-evolution. We identify and exploit these signatures to infer new genetic interactions and reveal deeper relationships between entire genetic pathways. To date we have performed genome-wide coevolution studies in yeasts, Drosophila, and mammalian species, in each case providing insight into gene function.

ERC Analysis webserver

Perform custom ERC analyses on any genes through our public webserver.

Active lab members: Raghav Partha

Co-evolution in the Nuclear Pore Complex

Protein-protein interactions require compensatory evolution.

To experimentally interrogate coevolution, we create genetic incompatibilities through transgenic experiments in baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). By mutating a select few amino acids or substituting an entire protein complex from one species for that of another, we follow the effects of co-evolved amino acid changes (i.e. compensatory changes) via phenotypic and physical interaction assays.