Areas of Expertise:
Molecular biology, bioinformatics, evolutionary developmental biology
Tribolium castaneum, Drosophila melanogaster
Because of a large gap in the fossil record, a debate on the origin of insect wings has roared on for more than 200 years between two competing hypotheses: tergal or pleural origin. Recent molecular evidence has provided support for a dual-origin of insect wings. I aim to investigate the contribution of two distinct wing serial homologs to ectopic wing formation in the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, to further inform the dual-origin hypothesis of insect wings.
Tribolium castaneum is an emerging model system which has been shown to bare two distinct wing serial homologs on the wingless first thoracic segment (T1), one tergal and one pleural, maintained in the ancestral state by the Hox gene Sex combs reduced (Scr). Partial disruption of Scr function reveals that both of these distinct wing serial homologs contribute to the formation of the ectopic wing that subsequently develops on T1. I utilized FAIRE-seq to chemically isolate and sequence potential enhancers for the wing master gene Vg in Tribolium, an inter-species reporter assay system to screen them for wing activity in Drosophila, and then transfect active enhancer-reporter constructs back into Tribolium. Utilizing Vg enhancer activity to mark the cell populations that develop into these plesiomorphic tergal and pleural wing serial homologs, I aim to visualize their merger during ectopic wing formation under Scr disruption to further inform the dual-origin hypothesis of insect wings.