Role of microRNAs in phenotypic plasticity to environmental change.doc

NERC-funded research by Terry Burke and Vincent Cunliffe (Univ Sheffield) and Nick Mundy (Univ Cambridge) aims to identify the genes controlling feather structure and pigmentation by expression profiling of cDNA arrays during feather development and in chicken plumage mutants. They will analyse DNA methylation around the identified loci to test for epigenetic control. Many sexual signals (especially plumage in passerine birds) have a "condition-dependent" component, where there is a strong environmental influence on the degree of elaboration. They will therefore examine the role of methylation in passerine orthologues of genes identified in chickens. The expression of sexually-selected characters is a consequence of gene x environment interactions that can only ultimately be fully understood by dissecting the epigenetic control of those characters in their native environment – in particular to answer the major question of what keeps the signal "honest"? The novel combination of longitudinal life history studies with epigenomic analysis will allow us to achieve this goal.

Personnel

Dr Gavin Hinten (2004-2008)

Dr Sarah Follett (2007-2008)

Principal Investigator

Professor Terry Burke

email : t.a.burke@sheffield.ac.uk

Collaborators

East Anglia
St Andrews
UCL