Eukaryotes share an unprecedented number of genes and gene families, as well, developmental genetic studies have shown that similar genes are used to make very different kinds of structures. This means that organismic form is not directly encoded in the genome. Because lichen fungi and photobionts can live separate unicellular lives or can join together to make three dimensional structures neither makes separately, we can ask two related questions: 1. What gene expression differences are there between unicellular and multicellular existence; 2. What is required of cellular genomes to cooperate in producing three dimensional form.

 

Developmental constraints have always appeared to limit the Insecta body plan to a maximum of 14 non-head segments. The objective of this study is to understand the genetic and molecular aspects of the constraint with the ultimate goal of producing an extra non-head segment in Drosophila melanogaster through various combinations of genes and transgenes. Currently, the genes of interest include those that are involved in the establishment of parasegments and those that are involved in overall cell survival.

 

The genetic basis of sowbug (isopod) pigmentation is in its fifth year as a research project for second year students. In these naturally occurring variations students have documented female limited traits and interesting epistatic relationships among alleles at different genetic loci. Recently, the appearance of individuals with both male and female characteristics has revealed new challenges in this project. A 4th year student is now identifying and quantifying the pigments responsible for the different phenotypes. We hope these projects will ultimately contribute to our understanding of the maintenance of these polymorphisms in natural populations.