Katie Clowers, Ph.D.


Education: Bachelor of Science in biology (December 2008)

Doctor of Philosophy in genetics at University of Wisconsin-Madison

McNair Project: The Genetics of Cold Tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster (2007)

Mentor: Theodore Morgan, Ph.D.

Expression of the ind homeodomain protein in the Drosophila embryo is regulated by the global dorsalventral patterning pathways Dorsal, Egfr, and Dpp. It is also regulated by Vnd; Vnd limits the expansion of ind ventrally by its position on the ventral border of ind. We searched the Exelixis deficiency collection out of Bloomington, Indiana, for mutated expression of Ind. We found deficiencies that deleted known components of the signaling pathways had mutated or lost ind expression; these deficiencies removed screw, dpp, and egfr. We also found a pair of overlapping deficiencies that gave us ventralized embryos. Transheterozygotes of these two deficiencies were also ventralized. The overlap contained seven genes including CG11582 which encodes a twisted gastrulation like protein. These two deficiency also resembles the shrew mutants. A transheterozygote of shrew mutants and these deficiencies resembled the shrew mutant as well. We are now characterizing these deficiencies to identify the genes responsible for shrew phenotype.

McNair Project: Genetic Variation in Senescence-Parker-Protein 30 Influences Natural Variation in Cold Tolerance in Drosophila (2008)

Mentor: Theodore Morgan, Ph.D.

Drosophila melanogaster is historically a tropical African species that succeeded in colonizing novel environments in Europe and Asia, and recently, expanded its range to all continents. Since insects are isothermal with their environment, how individuals cope with temperature extremes represents a set of important and ecologically-relevant phenotypes. The first step towards understanding these phenotypes is to identify the genes influencing them. However, to understand the evolutionary dynamics of these phenotypes we must identify the genes which are genetically variable within natural populations.

We sought to link preliminary data documenting large amounts of natural phenotypic variation in cold tolerance with cold-inducible genes. The goal was to determine if SMP-30, a highly inducible gene in cold susceptible lines, harbors genetic variation that influences natural variation in cold tolerance. We determined that molecular variation in SMP-30 is associated with variation in cold tolerance, suggesting SMP-30 contributes to variation in cold tolerance in nature.