Biology is fundamental to our changing world. The 21st century challenge for our students, our scholars, and the greater society is to understand our place in this changing world and to create fundamental knowledge for informed policies, economies, and social structure.
Pupa of the butterfly Porphyrogenes peterwegii "peering" out of its leafy nest with false eyes, which in turn mimic the eyes of a snake, thereby protecting the pupa from small feather-brained birds.
Many genes that organisms use to regulate their mutualists are also used to defend against parasites and pathogens. The shared genetic control of beneficial and harmful symbioses raises the intriguing possibility that susceptibility to infection is a pleiotropic cost of mutualism. Our goal is to understand how a genetic tradeoff between attracting mutualists and repelling parasites has shaped the genomic architecture of traits mediating species interactions, and how ongoing conflict influences adaptation.
Malaria parasites (and their kin) can be viewed as minimal eukaryotes, harboring a nucleus (yellow), a secretory pathway the Golgi (purple) and specialized ‘rhotpry’ organelle (black), and two endosymbiotic organelles, the mitochondrion (red) and apicoplast (green).
How do organisms create such complex and beautiful shapes? And how do they do it so reproducibly? Plants are an excellent system to study these questions. For instance, the HD-ZIPIII family of transcription factors are >700 million years old and regulate nearly all aspects of plant development. Consequences of HD-ZIPIII dysregulation on plant morphology are severe (pictured here). Understanding how HD-ZIPIII proteins work is a central theme of the lab.