fly embryo beetle pupa
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Genetics Dept

Our research goal is to gain a better understanding of how gene expression governs development and pattern formation in animals. We use the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster for many of these studies, but we are also using the red flour beetle, Tribolium castanium.

Though the lab intially was examining how Hox genes control body patterning, more recently we have diveregred into many related areas of development, and we are now using tools of quantitative genetics and genomics to identify genes and gene networks that regulate pattern formation. That said, we still have an interest in how Hox gene expression tailors each body region, so we continue to study their effects.

Hox genes: Hox genes encode highly conserved, related homeodomain-containing proteins that bind to DNA in a sequence specific manner.  In most genomes the Hox genes are tightly clustered and, interestingly, are organized such that there is colinearity between the position of a specific gene in the Hox complex and where it governs identity in an organism. Figure 1 is a diagram of the Hox complex from Drosophila and mouse. The colors of each gene correspond with the position of expression in the Drosophila embryo.