RII Track-2 FEC: From Genome to Phenome in a Stressful World: Epigenetic regulatory mechanisms mediating thermal plasticity in Drosophila

Grants and Contracts Details


Understanding how organismal phenotypes map onto genotypes has proven to be a complex problem, driven by the inherent complexity of gene-gene interactions as well as the shifting relationship between genotype and phenotype as a function of the external environment. Variation in phenotypic outcomes across environmental contexts, or phenotypic plasticity, is a nearly ubiquitous feature of multicellular organisms, ranging from quantitative shifts in size, morphology, physiology or behavior to dramatic, discrete polyphenisms. Plasticity can be selectively advantageous because it expands the phenotypic scope of a given genotype, such that the same individual can perform adaptively under multiple possible conditions. It can also drive evolutionary innovation by enhancing phenotypic variability and robustness under novel conditions, which may be critical for persistence under rapid environmental change. Despite its importance, however, the mechanisms mediating the link between environmental conditions and their resulting phenotypic outcomes are not well understood, even for many of the best-known cases of plastic traits. The proposed work will begin to fill this gap by identifying key epigenetic regulators responsible for temperature acclimation, a well-characterized, experimentally tractable, and evolutionarily important plastic response, and evaluating their role in the evolution of phenotypic plasticity both in the laboratory and in nature. This project will leverage the complementary expertise of six investigators across three EPSCoR jurisdictions, including five early-career Assistant Professors, and will form the scaffolding for building collaborative STEM infrastructure between research-intensive PhD-granting flagship state universities (University of Vermont, University of Kentucky) and small PUI liberal-arts institutions (Providence College and Salve Regina University in Rhode Island). The project will provide funding to establish early-career faculty with active, sustainable research programs and to build collaborative networks crossing both disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Educationally, the project will address a systematic deficit in quantitative analysis and computer programming in the undergraduate biology curriculum by providing new coursework, training opportunities and hands-on research experience in systems biology for students from all four participating institutions. At the University of Kentucky, the Teets lab will be responsible for leading Aim 2 of the project, which involves investigating the genetic architecture of thermal tolerance in sequenced Drosophila lines and conducting a selection experiment to understand the evolution of thermal tolerance plasticity.
Effective start/end date9/1/187/31/23


  • University of Vermont: $879,118.00


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