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Developmental Genetics of Space and Time

Albert Erives, associate professor in the University of Iowa Department of Biology, and his graduate student, Justin Crocker, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Farm Research Campus, have conducted a study that reveals important and useful insights into how and why developmental genes often take inputs from two independent “morphogen concentration gradients.”

Using the powerful Drosophila (fruit fly) genetic system, which includes diverse species with fully sequenced genomes, the Erives Lab identified a case of spatial and temporal conflict in the regulation of the ventral neurons defective (vnd) gene, which must be precisely regulated in order for the fly’s nervous system to be properly specified.  The results show how requirements for conflicting temporal and spatial responses to one morphogen gradient can be solved by additional inputs from complementary morphogen gradients.

The Erives Lab at the UI’s Department of Biology studies the structure, function, and evolution of enhancers within the context of gene regulatory circuits underlying the evolution and development of animals by using molecular, genetic, and evolutionary genomic approaches. Within these areas, the Erives Lab has published several landmark papers notable for demonstrating how whole genome sequences can be used to accelerate biological research on outstanding questions in biology.

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