Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Francesca Cohn L&S Biological Sciences

Characterization of Putative Pitx2 Enhancers in Gasterosteus Aculeatus

The complex spatiotemporal control of gene expression is orchestrated by regulatory genomic elements called enhancers. Mutations in these enhancer regions have been linked to phenotypic evolution and human disease, however there is still little known about their regulatory logic; particularly whether individual enhancers are active in a single or multiple tissues, i.e. modular or pleiotropic. My research addresses this question by testing putative enhancers of the developmental gene Pitx2 using transgenic reporter assays in threespine stickleback fish.For each putative enhancer, I am asking: 1) does it drive expression of GFP during development, i.e. is it an enhancer?, 2) is this pattern consistent with Pitx2 expression, i.e. is it an enhancer of Pitx2?, and 3) in how many tissues is it active, i.e. is it pleiotropic? This work will add to our growing understanding of the enhancer logic underpinning developmental gene control in multiple tissues – a critical component of understanding both evolution and human disease.

Message To Sponsor

I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for this opportunity. I've always been really passionate about genetics, but in this past year I have begun to realize how important going to graduate school will be to my future career and research aspirations in this area. Thank you so much for supporting me as I take the first steps in becoming an independent scientist and preparing myself for advanced education that I'm really really excited to pursue!
Major: Integrative Biology and Molecular and Cellular Biology
Mentor: Craig Miller
Sponsor: Leadership Fund
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