"Experimental Restoration Ecology: Competition and Herbivory Influence the Survival, Growth, and Physiology of Native Tree Seedlings in the Kentucky Inner Bluegrass Savanna-Woodland"
PhD from Université Paris 6 (France)
Group Leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (2006-2015) (Heidelberg, Germany)
Head of Research Unit at the Institut Pasteur (2015-2019) (Paris, France)
Professor, The University of Chicago (2019-.)
The mechanisms that regulate the efficiency and specificity of interactions between distant genes and cis-regulatory elements such as enhancers play a central role in shaping the specific regulatory programs that control cell fate and identity. In particular, the (epi)genetic elements that organize the 3D folding of the genome in specific loops and domains have emerged as key determinants of this process. I will discuss our current views on how 3D genome architecture is organized, how it influences gene regulatory interactions and illustrate how alterations of the mechanisms and elements that organize genomes in 3D could contribute to genomic disorders and genome evolution.
While behavioral syndromes are frequently argued to represent an optimal outcome of correlated selection, they also have the potential to constrain evolutionary responses. Via intraspecific and interspecific comparisons we attempted to determine whether behavioral variation was distributed in a manner consistent with either (or both) of these explanations. We compared the distribution of genetic variation across four populations of field crickets (Gryllus integer) and for seven behavioral measures. The distribution and orientation of genetic variation was conserved across populations and divergence among populations was constrained to a shared direction in multivariate space. We then compared the distribution of behavioral variation across five species of crickets and identified a strong phylogenetic signal. Combined, these intra- and interspecific comparisons are consistent with behavioral syndromes acting as constraints on evolutionary outcomes. Finally, in a natural population of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) we compared the orientation of behavioral variation with the direction of selection acting on the population. We found that the distribution of behavioral variation was inconsistent with our a priori predictions. These three independent results suggest that intuitive adaptive explanations may be insufficient to explain the ubiquity of behavioral syndromes.
I am a Professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Biomathematics departments. A major goal of my research is to quantify and understand the possible functions, forms, and interactions of biological systems that result in the extraordinary diversity in nature. I have studied a wide range of areas such as metabolic scaling, consumer-resource interactions, rates of evolution, effects of global warming on ecosystems, tumor growth, and sleep. Complementary to this, I aim to understand how much variation around optima or averages is considered healthy or adaptive versus diseased or disturbed states, which are essentially deviations from normal or sustainable functioning. As I attempt to make progress on these questions, I join together ecology, evolutionary theory, physiology, mathematical modeling, image-analysis software, informatics, and biomedical sciences. Many theories, including some of my work, focus on optimal or average properties, but more recently, I have been working to obtain the large amounts of data necessary to characterize variation in key properties. My new findings about the diversity and variation in form and function are revealing flaws in current models, and I am working to develop new theories that incorporate realistic amounts of natural variation.
The question of which factors contribute to ecosystem and food webs stability is one of the most fundamental and foundational in all of ecology. Here I present findings from a new numerical model that allows us to include or exclude different potential factors, and I interpret these results using a novel method that examines how stability and connectance change with consumer-resource size ratios. In this way we are able to compare our predictions and model with empirically grounded data and known trends. Consequently, we are also able to study how variation in size distributions within food webs overall impact the stability of food webs. These results are followed by a more analytical mathematical treatment of how eigenvalue distributions—directly related to system stability—change depending on the structure of the interaction matrix. As part of this, I review and revisit seminal work by Robert May and Stefano Allesina, and connect with and synthesize some lesser known theorems from linear algebra to illuminate and understand some of the results from our numerical model. Finally, I talk about how this work might be extended to consider the impacts of increasing or fluctuating temperatures due to climate change, and possible directions for enlarging and extending the
mathematical concept of stability to something closer to its ecological meaning.
Dr. Rafael Demarco | Demarco Lab
I am a new Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville whose ultimate goal is to understand how changes in metabolism impact stem cell behavior during homeostasis, aging and stress conditions. I was trained as a geneticist during my Ph.D. with Dr. Erik Lundquist at the University of Kansas, where I learned to ask questions and interpret genetic data using model organisms. To pursue my objective of studying stem cells and their niches, I obtained my postdoctoral training and later position as a Research Specialist in the laboratory of Dr. Leanne Jones (first at the Salk Institute and then at the University of California, Los Angeles and San Francisco), a leading expert in the fields of stem cells and current director of the Bakar Aging Research Institute at UCSF. During my time working with Dr. Jones, I developed my own research interests focusing on how different aspects of metabolism impact the stem cell niche present in the Drosophila testis. Unexpectedly, I found that both stem cell populations present in the testis niche employ mechanisms to maintain proper lipid homeostasis in order to prevent stem cell loss. Disruptions in either mitochondrial fusion (in germline stem cells1) or autophagy (in cyst stem cells2) led to deficient lipid catabolism and ectopic accumulation of lipids in the stem cell niche, which promoted stem cell loss through differentiation. Hence, a model has emerged revealing a novel metabolic facet in the regulation of stem cell fate, which appears conserved across stem cell systems3. In my recently established laboratory, I am engaged in pursuing the mechanism(s) through which ectopic lipid accumulation can impact stem cell fate within the niche, which could shed light into the development of new strategies targeting stem cell-based regenerative therapies.
The capacity of stem cells to self-renew or differentiate has been attributed to distinct metabolic states. A genetic screen targeting regulators of mitochondrial dynamics revealed that mitochondrial fusion is required for male germline stem cell (GSC) maintenance in Drosophila melanogaster. Depletion of Mitofusin (dMfn) or Optic atrophy 1 (Opa1) led to dysfunctional mitochondria, activation of Target of Rapamycin (TOR), and a dramatic accumulation of lipid droplets (LDs). Pharmacologic or genetic enhancement of lipid utilization by the mitochondria decreased LD accumulation, attenuated TOR activation and rescued GSC loss caused by inhibition of mitochondrial fusion. However, the mechanism(s) leading to GSC loss were unclear. TOR activation has been demonstrated to suppress JAK-STAT signaling by stabilizing the JAK-STAT inhibitor SOCS36E. As JAK-STAT signaling is critical for regulating stem cell self-renewal in the testis, we wanted to test the hypothesis that the increase in TOR activity in early germ cells would lead to SOCS36E stabilization, which in turn, could contribute to stem cell loss. Indeed, we found that SOCS36E levels were higher in early germ cells upon depletion of dMfn or Opa1. Subsequently, we show that activation of the JAK-STAT pathway, but not BMP signaling, is sufficient to rescue loss of GSCs as a result of the block in mitochondrial fusion. In addition, preliminary genetic and proximity-labeling data suggest that LD accumulation acts in parallel to TOR/SOCS36E to promote GSC loss. Our findings highlight a critical role for mitochondrial metabolism and lipid homeostasis in GSC maintenance, providing a framework for investigating the impact of metabolic diseases on stem cell function and tissue homeostasis.
This is a test event
UK Biology Graduate Program Recruitment Day & Poster Session
Friday, January 25
1:30-3:00 PM in the BBSRB 2nd Floor Atrium*
•Are you looking for a career where every day is different from the last?
•Is getting the results the most exciting part of your lab course?
•Do you like the idea of getting paid to earn a doctoral degree?
To learn more about careers in biology research, graduate school, and the Biology Graduate Program, come to our open Recruitment Day Poster Session.
Find out what your TAs and professors do when they’re not in class!
*The BBSRB Atrium is most easily accessed by crossing the pedestrian bridge over Limestone St. from the 3rd floor of the Kentucky Clinic.