The Adaptation of Complex Traits in Heliconius Butterfly Wing Patterns
DNA sequences that act to determine where, when, and to what degree genes are expressed are called cis-regulatory elements. These elements are estimated to outnumber genes by more than 20 to 1 in the human genome. Although variation in the traits of organisms often traces to these cis-regulatory elements, they remain poorly understood.
Robert Reed wants a better understanding of how regulatory elements can drive the adaptation of complex traits. Specifically, the research will characterize the cis-regulatory architecture driving adaptive evolution of wing pattern coloration in Heliconius butterflies, an organismal system that has emerged as an important model for understanding the genomic dynamics of adaptation. The research will also help develop and adapt important new functional genomics techniques to facilitate the broader study of cis-regulatory elements across species.