SICB 2014: Regulation of Anole Limb Development

Readers of AA are very familiar with the dramatic differences in limb length among the anole ecomorphs, but we don’t yet know which genomic regions are involved in the evolution of anole limb length.  Carlos Infante, currently a postdoc in Doug Menke’s lab at the University of Georgia, presented a talk on his work to identify enhancers (short regions of DNA where proteins bind to enhance the transcription of a gene) that are associated with anole limb development.

Carlos first described a series of previous studies that did not find differences in the proteins expressed in the limbs of different anole species, suggesting that the differences in limb length are likely controlled by differences in gene regulation. However, examining a series of enhancer regions that were identified from previous work in mice also did not reveal differences in sequence variation that were correlated with limb length.

So, Carlos and his collaborators are using tools from the field of functional genomics to address this issue, using ChIP-Seq (a method that analyzes interactions between DNA and proteins) to identify active enhancers and promotors in embryonic Anolis carolinensis tissue using antibodies against Pitx1 (a transcription factor involved in hindlimb development) and H3K27ac (an acetylated histone mark).  By comparing results from these two datasets, they could identify enhancers that are expressed in forelimbs, hindlimbs, trunk tissues, or tubercles. Their plan for future work involves using the list they’ve generated of enhancers expressed in both forelimbs and hindlimbs to identify the regulatory regions that control the development of limb morphologies among Anolis species.

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