My graduate research focused on quantitative genetics of sexually dimorphic traits, investigating genetic correlation between the sexes, revealing shared architecture – the basis for sexual conflict. In the course of this research, I became interested in using genomic techniques to increase the rate at which causal genes could be identified in studies of dimorphic complex traits. During my post-doctoral work I conducted a set of studies which further developed my skills and interest in understanding evolution of gene regulation.
Recent research in my lab has focused on regulatory variation within species, finding that regulatory variation of thousands of sex differentially expressed genes show sex limited cis or trans variation. This indicates that there is a strong contribution of cis/trans regulation by sex interactions to overall variation. Using molecular genetic perturbations, I have also shown that even a single pair of strains can differ significantly in sex differential expression (SDE), and that these differences are downstream of both the somatic sex determination pathway and other, uncharacterized, pathways. GO enrichments show that the group of genes with regulatory variation in these studies are functionally enriched for metabolic processes, behavior and steroid hormone receptor activity. Additional studies in our lab have shown that perturbation of a single hormone receptor, the insulin receptor (InR), results in large changes in sex differential expression. Thus, there are at least two types of regulatory pathways that are likely to contribute to SDE variation, sex determination and environmentally responsive hormone signaling pathways – these pathways and related sexually dimorphic complex traits are the focus of our lab’s current research projects.