Lauren McIntyre

Lauren McIntyre, Ph.D.
Committee Member of CNG
Professor of UF MGM

Phone: (352) 273-8024
Fax: (352) 273-8284
mcintyre@mgm.ufl.edu

University of Florida
Dept. of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology
2033 Mowry Road
Gainesville, FL. 32610


Genetical Genomics

In order to better understand complex phenotypes, Dr. McIntyre is developing a systems approach to the statistical analysis of genomic, proteomic, and other “omic” data. Her research focuses on the methods for understanding and answering system level questions such as:

How does the whole organism work?
What produces the phenotype?
What regulates the system?

The program is highly collaborative and works with experts in Drosophila, Staphylococcus aureus, arabidopsis, maize and trees to answer fundamental questions about how genetic variation influences variation in phenotype.  One of my latest projects is a collaboration with Sergey Nuzhdin (University of Southern California) involving learning, memory and social behavior in Drosophila.  Please see below for a more detailed description.

Population Genetic Framework for neuroanatomical mechanisms of behavioral modification

Animals have numerous opportunities to acquire information from one another. Although common across taxa, social learning requires the integration of associative learning, memory and social behavior (LMS); and these vary considerably among individuals within a species. How do genetic differences cause alterations in neural functions that ultimately cause variability in social learning? To address this question it is important to identify the genes and neural circuits that play a role in LMS.  Part of my research focuses on the analysis of the molecular-genetic basis that underlies individual differences in LMS in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Drosophila melanogaster is an excellent model for the integrative analyses of the genetic, biochemical, physiological, and environmental components of social behavior.  Flies have been used extensively as a model of these components as flies are social animals that aggregate in large groups. This confluence provides an opportunity to examine how individual genetic differences underlie variation in sociality and learning.   We hypothesize that transcription in specific neural circuits is modified by experience and this contributes to long- term memory. Further, we hypothesize that variation in transcription in these same neural circuits across individuals contributes to the differences in LMS.

To test these hypothesis my lab is examining the variation in the transcriptome of the Drosophila mushroom body (MB: the neural center of learning and cognition) using a new molecular-genetic technique that allows for the purification of RNA from subsets of cells. This analysis will be conducted in conjunction with an analysis of the LMS behaviors of specific recurrent F1 progeny.  From this analysis we seek to: i) determine how transcriptional variation in LMS is associated with phenotypic variation, ii) partition the cis– and trans– components of expression variation for every gene, iii) focus on cis– expression variation that is associated with behavioral variation, and iv) pinpoint cis– DNA polymorphisms likely contributing to cis– expression variation. Once we have identified causes of MB expression variation, we will connect the transcriptome with LMS: with our ultimate goal being to identify the candidate genes and their polymorphisms associated with differences in LMS.

Our research will identify candidate genes for associative learning, memory, and social interactions and move from associations to causation by mechanistic analyses. We will start answering several critical questions: how are learning and memory affected by different social experiences? How are learning, memory and sociality functionally integrated? And how do different social experiences alter gene expression in specific regions of the nervous system? Connecting these answers together will result in insights illuminating the maintenance of variation in natural populations, and in other social organisms including humans.

Publications extracted from PubMed
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