16/07/2014 - 12:00 - Auditori PRBB

Drifting shifts and oscillations in the dipteran gap gene system

Scientific sessions, CRG Group Leader Seminars

Yogi Yaeger

Comparative Analysis of Developmental Systems Group, Systems Biology Programme, CRG


Yogi Jaeger was trained as a Drosophila geneticist under Walter Gehring in Basel, then decided to explore theoretical, mathematical, and philosophical aspects of biology, science, and life in general with Brian Goodwin, at Schumacher College in Dartington, Devon, UK.

During his PhD with John Reinitz at Stony Brook University, NY, he learnt to combine experimental and theoretical approaches to reverse-engineer a developmental gene regulatory network—the gap gene system of Drosophila melanogaster. He is now applying this quantitative data-driven modelling methodology to a comparative, systems-level study of the evolving gap gene network in dipteran insects (flies, midges, and mosquitos). He started this project as an independent postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Michael Akam, in Cambridge UK, and is now carrying on with this research with his own group in Barcelona. In addition to this empirical research project, Yogi is interested in more theoretical and philosophical implications of applying dynamical systems theory to the evolution of biological regulatory networks. The aim is to understand how the wiring and dynamics of such systems influence the rate and direction of phenotypic evolution.


Natural selection requires phenotypic variability within populations as its substrate. This highly non-random distribution of phenotypes is produced by the complex, regulatory processes underlying development.

We must gain a mechanistic understanding of these processes—at all levels, from the molecular to the organismic—if we are to fully grasp the nature of evolutionary change. Our research aims to make a first step in this direction. I will present a comparative analysis of the dynamics and evolution of the gap gene network—involved in segment determination during early development—between Drosophila and two non-model dipteran species: the scuttle fly Megaselia abdita, and the moth midge Clogmia albipunctata. Our lab combines experimental work with quantitative mathematical modelling to characterise conserved and divergent aspects of gap gene regulation. We believe that our data-driven analysis of an evolving developmental system constitutes an important advance for the study of developmental evolution, shifting the focus from expression dynamics of single genes to the level of regulatory networks.