Biology Research News Archives

This page archives older entries featured on the Research News page. The Research News page highlights recent and ongoing research by Amherst College's faculty and students in Biology.

Poccia Lab: Principle of Duality in Phospholipids: Regulators of Membrane Morphology and Dynamics

Larijani, B., Hamati, F.14, Kundu, A.13, Chung, G., Domart, M.-C., Collinson, L. and Poccia, D.

2014 Biochem Soc Transactions  42: 1335-1342

Poccia_Duality_Image_1.jpg To suggest and develop intelligent strategies to comprehend the regulation of organelle formation, a deeper mechanistic interpretation requires more than just the involvement of proteins. Our findings have led to the demonstration of a structural role for phosphoinositides and their derivatives in nuclear membrane formation.





Poccia 2014 Duality Image.jpg We also show that phosphoinositides and their derivatives, as well as acting as second messengers, are modulators of membrane morphology and organelle shaping. Development of quantitative image analysis of echinoderm egg endoplasmic reticulum permits direct comparison of effects of phospholipid alteration on organelle shape.

Poccia Lab: Quantification of exocytosis kinetics by DIC image analysis of cortical lawns

James Mooney’12E, Saumitra Thakur’11, Peter Kahng’13, Josef G. Trapani & Dominic Poccia

J. Chemical Biology 7 :43-55 (2014)

Poccia_Quantification_Image_1.jpg Poccia_Quantification_Image_2.jpg Rapid image acquisition reveals spatial variations in time of initiation of exocytosis of individual cortical granules.



Clotfelter Lab: "Guanine-Based Structural Coloration as an Indicator of Oxidative Stress in a Cichlid Fish"

In Press


Matthew D. Cahn ‘13, Alexandria C. Brown and Ethan D. Clotfelter. Guanine-based structural coloration as an indicator of oxidative stress in a cichlid fish. Journal of Experimental Zoology, in press.

 "We used a novel approach to measure structural coloration in a fish and found that structural coloration can be condition-dependent and indicative of environmental stress."


10 Nov 2015 KAR


Hood Lab: Variation in mate-recognition pheromones of the fungal genus Microbotryum

Recent Publication

Lucy Xu, Elsa Petit, Michael E. Hood. HEREDITY August 2015:online early doi: 10.1038/hdy.2015.68

Fungi often recognize mating partners by the reciprocal exchange of pheromones.

We show that reciprocal pheromones & receptors can co-evolve at different rates. Different rates of co-evolution might reflect the contrasting roles of mating types during the conjugation process, as initiators versus responders


Purdy Lab: “The Acetate Switch of an Intestinal Pathogen Disrupts Insulin Signaling and Lipid Metabolism"

Recent Publication

Purdy Research Photo Saiyu Hang, Alexandra E. Purdy, William P. Robins, Zhipeng Wang, Manabendra Mandal, Sarah Chang, John J. Mekalanos, and Paula I. Watnick. The acetate switch of an intestinal pathogen disrupts insulin signaling and lipid metabolism. Cell Host & Microbe. November 12, 2014.

Vibrio cholerae unexpectedly manipulates host metabolism and virulence by controlling acetate levels in the GI tract via the CrbRS signal transduction system.

30 Jan 2015 TLR

Hood Lab: Chaos of rearrangements in the mating-type chromosomes of the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae

Recent Publication

Badouin*, H., Hood*, M.E., Gouzy, J., Aguileta, G., Siguenza, S., Perlin, M.H., Cuomo, C.A., Branca, A., and Giraud, T. (* co-first authors). Chaos of rearrangements in the mating-type chromosomes of the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae. Genetics (2015) online early DOI: 10.1534/genetics.115.177709.

Genomic regions linked to mating compatibility factors are rich in repetitive DNA and notoriously difficult to study.  We used the PacBio sequencing technology to completely assemble fungal mating type chromosomes.

Rearrangements of an unprecedented scale were found, supporting the very ancient nature of the mating-type chromosomes, which rivals the dynamics seen in mammalian XX/XY sex  chromosomes.

Hood Lab

Hood Lab: "Degeneration of the Non-Recombining Regions in the Mating-Type Chromosomes of the Anther-Smut Fungi"

Recent Publication

Fontanillas E, Hood ME,  Badouin H Petit E,  Barbe V, Gouzy J,  de Vienne DM, Aguileta G, Poulain J, Wincker P, Chen Z, Toh SS, Cuomo CA, Perlin MH, Gladieux P, Giraud T.  Degeneration of the non-recombining regions in the mating-type chromosomes of the anther-smut fungi.  Molecular Biology and Evolution (2015) 32: 928-943.

Genes for mating compatibility often reside in regions of suppression recombination and cytological differentiation within the chromosome pair.


3 April 2015 TLR

Hood Lab: "Rate of Resistance Evolution and Polymorphism in Long- and Short-Lived Hosts"

Recent Publication

Emme Bruns, Michael E. Hood, and Janis Antonovics. Rate of resistance evolution and polymorphism in long- and short-lived hosts. Evolution DOI:10.1111/evo.12577, Vol 69, 2015.

Conventional wisdom suggests that long-live species are slow to evolve, but with infectious diseases, host lifespan correlates with more rapid fixation of resistance.

Hood Research Photo

30 Jan 2015 TLR

Miller Lab: "Intraspecific Variation in Gender Strategies"

Recent Publication

Caitlin M. Blank'14, Rachel A. Levin, and Jill S. Miller. "Intraspecific variation in gender strategies: associations with ploidy and changes in floral form following the evolution of gender dimorphism." American Journal of Botany, Vol. 101, December 2014.

A study of a species with polymorphism in sexuality and ploidy reveals the convergent evolution of separate sexes in some diploid populations in Hawaii and in tetraploid populations in Mexico.  Changes in flower size and shape are reconstructed following transitions from hermaphroditism to separate sexes.

Miller Research Photo

30 Jan 2015 TLR

Hood Lab: "The Population Biology of Fungal Invasions"

Recent Publication


Gladieux P, Feurtey A, Hood ME, Snirc A, Clavel J, Dutech C, Roy M, Giraud T. "The Population Biology of Fungal Invasions." Molecular Biology DOI: 10.1111/mec.13028  vol. 24, Jan. 2015.

This review covers the occurrence and importance of invasions by fungi, which are often overlooked due to the cryptic nature of microbial eukaryotes. A local fungal pathogen is used to illustrate the molecular tracing of source populations overseas. 


Published 5 Dec 2014 TLR

Trapani Lab: Recording Field Potentials from Zebrafish Larvae During Escape Responses

Recent Publication

Bryan D. Monesson-Olson, Eileen L. Troconis’15, and Josef G. Trapani. "Recording Field Potentials from Zebrafish Larvae During Escape Responses." J Undergrad Neuro Educ (JUNE), Fall 2014, 13(1):A52-A58.

The Trapani Lab recently published a teaching article in the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE) on recording field potentials generated by escape responses of larval zebrafish. The article describes an electrophysiological method to record these potentials from intact, behaving zebrafish using both free-swimming or fixed-position larvae. The laboratories described in the article provide an opportunity to follow a physical stimulus through the nervous system to a behavioral response.


21 October 2014 TLR

Hood Lab: Disease in Marginal Populations

Summer field studies in Professor Michael Hood's lab address how a pollinator-transmitted disease of wild carnations interacts with host population densities. Previous theory suggested a "disease-free halo" at population margins. Detailed demography of the plants and the anther-smut pathogen reveals disease up to the edge of host distributions.  This ongoing research is funded by the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program (EEID) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Hood Field Research 2 Summer 2014

Hood Field Research Summer 2014 Students from Amherst College, University of Virginia, and the University of Turin, Italy

31 July 2014 TLR

Williamson Lab: Substrate Trajectory Through Phospholipid-Transporting P4-ATPases

Recent Publication:

P4 Class of P-type ATPases Patrick L. Williamson. "Substrate trajectory through phospholipid-transporting P4-ATPases." Biochemical Society Transactions 42: 1368 (2014).

The P4 class of P-type ATPases transport phospholipids.  These molecules are much larger than the ions transported by other members of this ATPase family. Gene mutations suggest three different possibilities for this trajectory.  In the best model, transport of these giant phospholipid substrates most closely resembles the transport of the smallest substrate of P-type ATPases, the proton.


9 October 2014 TLR

Trapani Lab: Optical Stimulation of Zebrafish Hair Cells

Recent Publication:

Optical Stimulation of Zebrafish Hair Cells Bryan D. Monesson-Olson*, Jenna Browning-Kamins*’13, Razina Aziz-Bose*’14, Fabiana Kreines'12, and Josef G. Trapani (*equal author contribution).  “Optical Stimulation of Zebrafish Hair Cells Expressing Channelrhodopsin-2.” PLOS ONE. 9(5): e96641, May 2014. 0

Approach: Using optogenetics to study hair-cell function and sensory encoding with transgenic  ChR2 zebrafish.

7 July 2014 TLR