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Project Proposal

Regulation of cuticle pigmentation and metabolism in Drosophila melanogaster

All insects have a hard exoskeleton that is secreted by the underlying epidermal layer during development. This exoskeleton, or cuticle, can contain pigments that may play roles in desiccation resistance, thermoregulation, and sexual selection. In the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the degree and patterning of pigmentation in the adult is very plastic and can be regulated by environmental factors such as temperature and nutritional state during development of the cuticle. My lab has identified the insulin signaling pathway as possibly providing a link between nutritional state during pupation and the amount of pigment deposited in the adult cuticle of D. melanogaster. We are now trying to understand the mechanism by which insulin signaling, through AKT, regulates the melanin biosynthetic pathway to increase pigmentation. We have also recently identified a microRNA as a regulator of pigmentation patterning in D. melanogaster. Previous studies have shown that this microRNA is an evolutionarily conserved regulator of lipid homeostasis, and we will explore the possible connections between this microRNA and the insulin signaling pathway or other metabolic pathways in regulating pigmentation in flies.

Pre-requisites: BIOL106, CHEM108/109 or 125, and an interest in genetics, developmental biology, biochemistry or physiology. Preference will be given to students who are interested in continuing to work on their URSI-related research during the '17-18 academic year for academic credit.

How should students express their interest in this project? Write briefly in your application why you are interested in this project. After reviewing the applications, I will contact short-listed candidates about setting up an interview. Students should not contact me directly.