Chris Hittinger

Credentials: Genetics Department

Position title: Molecular evolution of gene networks


4102 Genetics-Biotech Center Bldg
425 Henry Mall
Madison, WI 53706


lab website:

focus groups:

Molecular & Genome Biology of Microbes; Systems Biology

research description:

Hemiascomycete yeasts related to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Candida albicans, and Pichia stipitis encompass hundreds of described species that adopt a variety of strategies for consuming and processing the energy stored in a variety of carbon compounds. Like most living organisms, many of these yeasts adopt the ancestral and energy-efficient carbon utilization strategy of respiring when oxygen is present. Howerver, S. cerevisiae and its relatives ignore the presence of oxygen and ferment simple sugars when they are abundant. Much of this evolutionarily derived response is due to differences in the transcriptional regulatory networks, and we seek to discover which regulatory changes have occurred, determine when they occurred (through comparative methods and ancestral state inference), and understand the molecular mechanisms by which these changes were accomplished. Yeasts also vary greatly in terms of which carbon sources can be utilized for energy, and recent studies show that such variation can evolve rapidly and can even be maintained within individual species. Such variation is often encoded in modular gene networks, such as the galactose (GAL) utilization network that we have developed as a model for evolutionary systems biology and molecular evolution. We seek to understand how this variation is encoded in the genome and how its functions are executed at a molecular level.

ALSO A TRAINER IN THE FOLLOWING PROGRAMS: Genetics, Microbiology Doctoral Training Program (MDTP), Botany, Zoology/iBio

perform a pubmed publication search