Craig Miller, Professor

Closed (1) Genetic analysis of head skeletal evolution

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A fantastic diversity in organismal form is seen in nature, yet we know little about the genetic basis of evolutionary change. We are using the head skeleton of the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a model system to study the genetic basis of development and evolution. Sticklebacks have undergone one of the most dramatic and recent adaptive radiations on earth. Ancestral marine sticklebacks colonized and rapidly adapted to new freshwater lakes and streams at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. Major changes to the head skeleton have evolved repeatedly as populations adapt to new diets found in new freshwater environments. Fish with different morphologies can be crossed in the lab, allowing genetic analysis to identify which chromosome regions control the changes to the head skeleton. In a previous detailed genetic analysis, we identified a set of chromosome regions controlling a suite of head skeletal traits. Using genetic and genomic approaches, we identified an intronic enhancer of the Bone Morphogenetic Protein 6 gene as underlying evolved increases in tooth number. We want to further test how mutations in this enhancer lead to increases in tooth number and accelerated tooth regeneration rates. This project will involve molecular biology, transgenesis, and genome editing methods to study how enhancers regulate gene expression and morphology.

Please see recent 2014-2018 papers from the lab for more details (especially the Cleves et al. 2018 PLoS Genetics paper). Most of these papers have former URAP students as co-authors.

Qualifications: The apprentice should be willing to work 12+ hours/week on average (including about two hours/week meeting to plan research and discuss results, possibly up to two hours/week helping with animal husbandry, and at least eight hours/week doing independent research). No specific skills are required, but the apprentice should be familiar with basic concepts of genetics and molecular biology, and excited to learn about genetics, development and evolution. Ideally, the apprentice is highly-motivated, committed to doing research, pays attention to detail, enjoys working with their hands and looking through a microscope, and is familiar with Macs and PCs. We are especially interested in apprentices with a strong desire to potentially continue the project in future semesters.

Weekly Hours: 12 or more hours

Related website: http://mcb.berkeley.edu/index.php?option=com_mcbfacultyname=millerc
Related website: http://mcb.berkeley.edu/labs/miller/





Closed (4) Developmental biology of tooth regeneration

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The general concept, system, methods, and qualifications are similar to Project 1, but this project will specifically focus on studying the molecular and cellular basis of vertebrate organ regeneration, using teeth as a model system. The initial focus will be on assisting with ongoing experiments to identify putative stem cells in adult fish that give rise to regenerating teeth. This project involves cutting histological sections of fish to examine detailed patterns of cell division and gene expression at cellular resolution. We want to identify stem cells that mediate regeneration, as well as the molecular genetic pathways that regulate regeneration. Please see lab’s 2018 PLoS Genetics paper for more background (https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1007449).

Currently undergraduate research is not permitted due to the COVID pandemic and necessary restrictions in building personnel density. However, campus has indicated that if public health conditions improve, student access to labs might increase. So please do apply if you are interested in case conditions improve.

Weekly Hours: 12 or more hours