Population Genetics of Adaptation to Arctic Environments

This RFA examines how species cope with extreme conditions in arctic latitudes through a multi-disciplinary approach to physiological adaptations including: mammalian hibernation biology, neuroendocrine integration of environmental cues, seasonal regulations of nutrition, energetics, and body temperature, and assessment of stress in animal population.

The confluence of genome sequencing and computational breakthroughs has given population genetics unprecedented power to identify genes underlying adaptation, and, within those genes, to causes and dynamics of adaptation, rather than the resulting cellular and physiological mechanisms that are the foci of other disciplines. This RFA studies population genetics of select candidate genes related to Arctic and alpine adaptation in plants, fungi, insects, birds, and mammals. The general biochemistry and physiology of these genes are well known, but their roles in adaptation to life at high latitudes and elevations have been little explored.

Our identification of adaptive genes can lead to studies of relationships between molecular changes and specific environmental factors. The latitudinal transects and broad phylogenetic representation may reveal both unique and common evolutionary pathways of adaptation to extreme environments

This RFA will also build on the EPSCoR Phase I development of the UAF DNA Core Lab, which funded instruments for sequencing, SNP discovery, and image analysis. In Phase II, this RFA will acquire real-time PCR, a microarray scanner to process microarrays for transcriptional profiling, beta, and gamma counters for radio-immunioassay of hormones, upgrades for our two existing ABI 3100 sequencers, and support for service contracts on existing equipment.

Current projects include a computational back-end for fungal-metagenomics; research into systems biology of hibernation; development of a research initiative in avian influenza; and systems biology of Torpor.

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