A major challenge in biology is explaining how morphology evolves. While it’s clear that changes in gene regulation are ultimately responsible for the development and evolution of complex characters, we are only just beginning to understand the molecular mechanisms of gene regulatory evolution. The goal of our research program is to develop a complete mechanistic and historical explanation for how morphological characters evolve, focusing on the mechanisms of gene regulatory evolution. To answer these questions we integrate functional genomics and experimental methods to deduce the molecular mechanisms of developmental evolution.
Our paper, Ancient Transposable Elements Transformed the Uterine Regulatory Landscape and Transcriptome during the Evolution of Mammalian Pregnancy was published in Cell Reports. The research traces the evolution of gene expression patterns in the mammalian uterus during pregnancy. We found that thousands of genes were recruited into uterine expression in early mammals, and that ancient mammalian transposable elements likely mediated these recruitment events.