My research adapts genomics tools to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of animal diversity. I focus on the regulatory control of gene expression during vertebrate development. My approach integrates functional and comparative genomics, developmental biology, and phylogenetics. My goal is to understand the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of vertebrate morphology.
Carlos Infante, Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology, and colleagues recently published a paper "A novel enhancer near the Pitx1 gene influences development and evolution of pelvic appendages in vertebrates” in eLife. In this collaborative work the authors identified a gene regulatory element, or enhancer, for the gene Pitx1 that affects the shape of the patella and the bones of the foot in mice, and is also involved in the evolution of pelvic spines in stickleback fish and possibly the evolution of limb loss in snakes.
Dr. Infante describes his role in the study: “For the paper I analyzed ChIP-seq data to identify active regulatory regions in the developing mouse hindlimb. This analysis identified a new regulatory element near Pitx1, a gene that based on previous research plays a key role in the evolution of vertebrate hindlimb morphology. This work demonstrates the utility of ChIP-seq to quickly and efficiently identify active regulatory elements genome-wide to provide a better picture of the complex gene networks that control animal development, a process that before the development of functional genomics techniques like ChIP-seq was time-consuming and expensive."
Thompson, AC, TD Capellini, CA Guenther, YF Chan, CR Infante, DB Menke, and DM Kingsley. A novel enhancer near the Pitx1 gene influences development and evolution of pelvic appendages in vertebrates. Elife 2018(7): e38555. DOI:10.7554/eLife.38555 PMID: 30499775.
For the full publication click here.