One of the greatest puzzles in evolutionary biology is to understand how the spectacular array of organismal forms on our planet arose. Research in evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) aims to molecularly characterize evolutionary changes in the developmental mechanisms that control morphology. Pioneering work in evo-devo uncovered the remarkable discovery that an ancient "toolkit" of regulatory pathways and transcription factors shared between flies and humans shape the development of vastly different animals. Sequencing of multiple genomes (including our own) has shown that even the most complex creatures lack originality in their repertoire of genes, suggesting that changes in gene regulation are important for generating complexity. Our research is focused on learning how these evolutionarily resilient building blocks are molecularly rearranged and modified to generate diversity, particularly differences in morphology. Specific topics include:
How do new expression patterns evolve?
Every location where a gene is expressed (gene expression pattern) arose at some point in the past, yet the evolutionary origins of these patterns remain murky. In a hunt for newly evolved expression patterns, we are investigating the molecular mechanisms that generate new patterns, and the origins of regulatory sequences that control gene expression.
How do networks of genes evolve to generate complex phenotypes?
We are studying highly divergent pigmentation patterns of closely related Drosophila species (Figure 1) as a model to understand the intricate web of genes and mutations that underlie complex traits.
How do new structures originate?
The evolutionary beginnings of morphological novelties, structures that bear no obvious antecedent, represent a major mystery of biology. Using the wildly divergent morphology of Drosophila genitalia (Figure 2), we are investigating genes and mutations that generate elaborate novel structures.
Glassford WJ, Johnson WC, Dall NR, Liu Y, Boll
Glassford WJ, Johnson WC, Dall NR, Liu Y, Boll W, Noll M, Rebeiz M (2015). Co-option of an ancestral Hox-regulated network underlies a recently evolved morphological novelty. Developmental Cell, 34(5): 520-531
Rebeiz M, Patel NH, Hinman VH (2015) Unraveling
Rebeiz M, Patel NH, Hinman VH (2015) Unraveling the tangled skein: the evolution of transcriptional regulatory networks in development. Annual Reviews of Genomics and Human Genetics 16:103-131
Johnson WC*, Ordway AJ*, Watada M, Pruitt JN, W
Johnson WC*, Ordway AJ*, Watada M, Pruitt JN, Williams TM, Rebeiz M (2015) Genetic Changes to a Transcriptional Silencer Element Confers Phenotypic Diversity Within and Between Drosophila Species. PLoS Genetics, 11(6): e1005279
Camino EM, Butts JC, Ordway AJ, Velky JE, Rebei
Camino EM, Butts JC, Ordway AJ, Velky JE, Rebeiz M, Williams TM (2015) The evolutionary origination and diversification of a dimorphic gene regulatory network through parallel innovations in cis and trans. PLoS Genetics, 11(4): e1005136.
Miller SW, Rebeiz M, Atanasov JE, and Posakony
Miller SW, Rebeiz M, Atanasov JE, and Posakony JW (2014) Neural precursor-specific expression of multiple Drosophila genes is driven by dual enhancer modules with overlapping function. PNAS. 111(48) 17194-9.
Ordway JA*, Hancuch KN*, Johnson WC, Williams T
Ordway JA*, Hancuch KN*, Johnson WC, Williams TW, Rebeiz M (2014) The expansion of body coloration involves coordinated evolution in cis and trans within the pigmentation regulatory network of Drosophila prostipennis. Dev Biol, 392(2):431-40
Rogers WA, Grover S, Stringer SJ, Parks J, Rebe
Rogers WA, Grover S, Stringer SJ, Parks J, Rebeiz M, Williams TW (2014) A survey of the trans-regulatory landscape for Drosophila melanogaster abdominal pigmentation. Dev Biol, 385(2):417-432
Glassford WJ, Rebeiz M (2013) Assessing constra
Glassford WJ, Rebeiz M (2013) Assessing constraints on regulatory sequence evolution. Phil Trans B, 368(1632):20130026
Salomone JR, Rogers WA, Rebeiz M, and Williams
Salomone JR, Rogers WA, Rebeiz M, and Williams TM (2013) The evolution of Bab paralog expression and abdominal pigmentation among Sophophora fruit fly species. Evolution and Development, 15(6):442-57
Rogers WA, Salomone J, Tacy DJ, Camino EM, Davis K
Rogers WA, Salomone J, Tacy DJ, Camino EM, Davis K, Rebeiz M, and Williams TM (2013) Recurrent modification of a conserved cis-regulatory element underlies the diversity for a sexually dimorphic fruit fly pigmentation trait. PLoS Genetics, 9(8):e1003740
Rebeiz M, Castro B, Liu F, Yue F, Posakony JW (
Rebeiz M, Castro B, Liu F, Yue F, Posakony JW (2012) Ancestral and conserved cis regulatory architectures in developmental control genes. Dev Biol 362:282-94
Rebeiz M*, Jikomes N*, Kassner VA, Carroll SB (
Rebeiz M*, Jikomes N*, Kassner VA, Carroll SB (2011) The evolutionary origin of a novel gene expression pattern through co-option of latent activities of existing regulatory sequences. PNAS 108:10036-43
Rebeiz M, Williams TM (2011) Experimental Appro
Rebeiz M, Williams TM (2011) Experimental Approaches to evaluate the contribution of candidate cis-regulatory mutations to phenotypic evolution. Pp 351-376 in Methods in Molecular Biology: Molecular Methods for Evolutionary Genetics (volume 772 Editors, V. Orgogozo and M. Rockman), Humana Press (New York).
Rebeiz, M., S.W. Miller, and J.W. Posakony (2011) Notch regulates numb: integration of conditiona
Rebeiz, M., S.W. Miller, and J.W. Posakony (2011) Notch regulates numb: integration of conditional and autonomous cell fate specification. Development 138:215-225
Rebeiz, M., J.E. Pool, V.A. Kassner, C.F. Aquadro, and S.B. Carroll (2009) Stepwise modification
Rebeiz, M., J.E. Pool, V.A. Kassner, C.F. Aquadro, and S.B. Carroll (2009) Stepwise modification of a modular enhancer underlies adaptation in a Drosophila population. Science 326:1663-1667
Rebeiz, M., M. Ramos-Womack, S. Jeong, P. Andolfatto, T. Werner, J. True, D.L. Stern, and S.B. Ca
Rebeiz, M., M. Ramos-Womack, S. Jeong, P. Andolfatto, T. Werner, J. True, D.L. Stern, and S.B. Carroll (2009) Evolution of the tan locus contributed to pigment loss in Drosophila santomea: a response to Matute et al.. Cell 139:1189-1196
Jeong, S., M. Rebeiz, P. Andolfatto, T. Werner, J. True, and S.B. Carroll (2008) The evolution of
Jeong, S., M. Rebeiz, P. Andolfatto, T. Werner, J. True, and S.B. Carroll (2008) The evolution of gene regulation underlies a morphological difference between two Drosophila sister species. Cell 132:783-793
Dr. Rebeiz received his Ph.D. in 2006 with James Posakony at the University of California, San Diego, performed his postdoctoral studies with Sean Carroll at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and joined the Department in 2010.
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow
Member, Faculty of 1000