Ph.D. candidate, The University of Chicago
I am interested in how the expression of different subsets of genes from the genome (in different times, places, and amounts) organizes organismal development, and in how these carefully regulated processes change over evolutionary time.
My research thus far in the Ruvinsky Lab has focused on how the encoding of regulatory information in the genomes of nematodes belies some of our expectations about how sequence change relates to functional change. In 1, we found that the regulatory function of a piece of DNA has been preserved, despite radical sequence evolution. This was possible because different types of constraints acted on different regulatory regions of the DNA. The more highly conserved portion of this upstream regulatory element itself contains various regions of differentiation, whose evolution is constrained by complex epistasis 3. We have also reviewed instances in which evidence for functional evolution has been observed in more and less closely related worms and flies 2. From over 200 quite different experiments, we were able to draw several conclusions that lead to testable hypotheses about the evolution of cis-regulatory elements. In the coming years, I plan to pursue these avenues of research to paint a more complete picture of how multidimensional phenotypes, like gene expression, can evolve.
3. Barrière A, Gordon KL, Ruvinsky I (2012). Coevolution within and between regulatory loci can preserve promoter function despite evolutionary rate acceleration. PLoS Genet 8(9): e1002961.
2. Gordon KL, Ruvinsky I (2012). Tempo and mode in evolution of transcriptional regulation. PLoS Genet 7(6): e1002095.
1. Barrière A, Gordon KL, Ruvinsky I (2011). Distinct Functional Constraints Partition Sequence Conservation in a cis-Regulatory Element. PLoS Genet 8(1): e1002432.