Title: Associate Professor
Area of Study: Evolutionary Developmental Biology
Office: Howell S215B
Address: Department of Biology
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858
My research laboratory is broadly interested in the emerging field of evolutionary developmental biology (EVO-DEVO). Specifically, we are interested in understanding how the evolution of non-protein coding DNA sequences affects the dramatic divergence anatomical structures under control of Hox paralog group 2 genes within the two major vertebrate lineages represented by the bony fishes and the tetrapods. We are using zebrafish (Danio rerio) and Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes), which are two established vertebrate developmental model organisms, to map the regulatory control regions of the Hox paralog group 2 genes. Comparison of our mapping results to those from other vertebrates will be used to understand how sequence evolution within these regulatory regions contributes to changes in vertebrate hindbrain and pharyngeal arch specification. Our experimental approach uses transgenic reporter gene assays, antisense morpholino-induced gene knock-down, and RNA interference to study the expression and function of Hox paralog group 2 genes in these model species. We believe a comparison of orthologous and paralogous genes in these species will provide an understanding of how cis-regulatory element evolution has contributed to the evolutionary changes in the expression and function of genes that contribute to the formation of the adult hindbrain and jaws.
My laboratory and collaborators in the Department of Biology (Anthony Overton, Xiaoping Pan and Baohong Zhang) recently received funding through the NSF RAPID program to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil spill on embryonic development of fish. We will combine field studies of developmental defects in environmental references species with laboratory-induced defects in a zebrafish model to determine common pathways affected by crude oil and chemical dispersant exposure. In addition to our developmental studies, we will conduct deep sequencing and gene network analyses to examine crude oil-induced changes in developmental gene expression.
Pan X, Murashov AK, Stellwag EJ, Zhang B. Monitoring microRNA expression during embryonic stem-cell differentiation using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Methods Mol Biol. 650, 213-24. 2010.
Davis A, Stellwag EJ. Spatio-temporal patterns of Hox paralog group 3-6 gene expression during Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) embryonic development. Gene Expr Patterns. 10, 244-50, 2010.
Le Pabic P, JL Scemama, EJ Stellwag. Role of Hox PG2 Genes in Nile tilapia pharyngeal arch specification: Implications for gnathostome pharyngeal arch evolution. Evolution and Development, 12, 45-60, 2010.
Zhang,B., E.J. Stellwag, and X. Pan. Large-scale genome analysis reveals uniquefeatures of microRNAs. Gene, 443, 100-109, 2009
Le Pabic, P., Scemama, J.L. and Stellwag, EJ Embryonic development and skeletogenesis of the pharyngeal jaw apparatus in the cichlid Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus. Anatomical Record, 292, 1780-1800, 2009.
BIOL 2300. Principles of Genetics.
BIOL 5870. Molecular Biology of the Gene.
BIOL 5900 and 5901. Biotechniques and Biotechniques Laboratory.
BIOL 7870. Molecular Genetics.