Rachel Agoglia L&S Sciences
Genetic Analysis of Evolved Tooth Gain in Sticklebacks
Understanding the genetic mechanisms that underlie morphological evolution is a long-standing goal in biology. The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is an emerging model organism with features ideal for studying the molecular basis of morphological evolution. Several stickleback populations display evolved differences in tooth number, likely adaptive to match different diets. These differences in tooth number are largely controlled by a Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL), a genomic region controlling a quantitative trait. This QTL is located on chromosome 21 and contains an excellent candidate gene: Bone Morphogenetic Protein 6 (Bmp6). I will use two approaches to test the hypothesis that Bmp6 underlies the chromosome 21 tooth QTL. First, I will use a reverse genetics approach with TALENs (TAL Effector Nucleases) to generate loss-of-function Bmp6 alleles to assess the role of Bmp6 in tooth patterning. Second, I will use a forward genetic approach of recombinant mapping to further fine-map the tooth QTL.