David L Stern

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, United States

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Publications (127)927.37 Total impact

  • Justin Crocker · Garth R Ilsley · David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: Genes are regulated by transcription factors that bind to regions of genomic DNA called enhancers. Considerable effort is focused on identifying transcription factor binding sites, with the goal of predicting gene expression from DNA sequence. Despite this effort, general, predictive models of enhancer function are currently lacking. Here we combine quantitative models of enhancer function with manipulations using engineered transcription factors to examine the extent to which enhancer function can be controlled in a quantitatively predictable manner. Our models, which incorporate few free parameters, can accurately predict the contributions of ectopic transcription factor inputs. These models allow the predictable 'tuning' of enhancers, providing a framework for the quantitative control of enhancers with engineered transcription factors.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2016 · Nature Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Rapid evolution of genitalia shape, a widespread phenomenon in animals with internal fertilization, offers the opportunity to dissect the genetic architecture of morphological evolution linked to sexual selection and speciation. Most quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping studies of genitalia divergence have focused on Drosophila melanogaster and its three most closely related species, D. simulans, D. mauritiana, and D. sechellia, and have suggested that the genetic basis of genitalia evolution involves many loci. We report the first genetic study of male genitalia evolution between D. yakuba and D. santomea, two species of the D. melanogaster species subgroup. We focus on male ventral branches, which harm females during interspecific copulation. Using landmark based geometric morphometrics, we characterized shape variation in parental species, F1 hybrids and backcross progeny and show that the main axis of shape variation within the backcross population matches the interspecific variation between parental species. For genotyping, we developed a new molecular method to perform multiplexed shotgun genotyping (MSG), which allowed us to prepare genomic DNA libraries from 365 backcross individuals in a few days using little DNA. We detected only three QTL, one of which spans 2.7 Mb and exhibits a highly significant effect on shape variation which can be linked to the harmfulness of the ventral branches. We conclude that the genetic architecture of genitalia morphology divergence may not always be as complex as suggested by previous studies.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · G3-Genes Genomes Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Male sexual characters are often among the first traits to diverge between closely related species and identifying the genetic basis of such changes can contribute to our understanding of their evolutionary history. However, little is known about the genetic architecture or the specific genes underlying the evolution of male genitalia. The morphology of the claspers, posterior lobes and anal plates exhibit striking differences between Drosophila mauritiana and Drosophila simulans. Using QTL and introgression-based high-resolution mapping, we identified several small regions on chromosome arms 3L and 3R that contribute to differences in these traits. However, we found that the loci underlying the evolution of clasper differences between these two species are independent from those that contribute to posterior lobe and anal plate divergence. Furthermore, while most of the loci affect each trait in the same direction and act additively, we also found evidence for epistasis between loci for clasper bristle number. In addition, we conducted an RNAi screen in D. melanogaster to investigate if positional and expression candidate genes located on chromosome 3L, are also involved in genital development. We found that six of these genes, including components of Wnt signaling and male-specific lethal 3 (msl3), regulate the development of genital traits consistent with the effects of the introgressed regions where they are located and that thus represent promising candidate genes for the evolution these traits. Copyright © 2015, The Genetics Society of America.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: In animals, Hox transcription factors define regional identity in distinct anatomical domains. How Hox genes encode this specificity is a paradox, because different Hox proteins bind with high affinity in vitro to similar DNA sequences. Here, we demonstrate that the Hox protein Ultrabithorax (Ubx) in complex with its cofactor Extradenticle (Exd) bound specif-ically to clusters of very low affinity sites in enhancers of the shavenbaby gene of Drosophila. These low affinity sites conferred specificity for Ubx binding in vivo, but multiple clustered sites were required for robust expression when embryos developed in variable environments. Although most individual Ubx binding sites are not evolutionarily conserved, the overall enhancer architecture—clusters of low affinity binding sites—is maintained and required for enhancer function. Natural selection therefore works at the level of the enhancer, requiring a partic-ular density of low affinity Ubx sites to confer both specific and robust expression. INTRODUCTION
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Cell
  • Justin Crocker · E.P.B. Noon · David L. Stern
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    ABSTRACT: Transcription factor proteins regulate gene expression by binding to specific DNA regions. Most studies of transcription factor binding sites have focused on the highest affinity sites for each factor. There is abundant evidence, however, that binding sites with a range of affinities, including very low affinities, are critical to gene regulation. Here, we present the theoretical and experimental evidence for the importance of low-affinity sites in gene regulation and development. We also discuss the implications of the widespread use of low-affinity sites in eukaryotic genomes for robustness, precision, specificity, and evolution of gene regulation.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Current Topics in Developmental Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Aphids exhibit a form of phenotypic plasticity, called polyphenism, in which genetically identical females reproduce sexually during one part of the life cycle and asexually (via parthenogenesis) during the remainder of the life cycle. The molecular basis for aphid parthenogenesis is unknown. Cytological observations of aphid parthenogenesis suggest that asexual oogenesis evolved either through a modification of meiosis or from a mitotic process. As a test of these alternatives, we assessed the expression levels and expression patterns of canonical meiotic recombination and germline genes in the sexual and asexual ovaries of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. We observed expression of all meiosis genes in similar patterns in asexual and sexual ovaries, with the exception that some genes encoding Argonaute-family members were not expressed in sexual ovaries. In addition, we observed that asexual aphid tissues accumulated unspliced transcripts of Spo11, whereas sexual aphid tissues accumulated primarily spliced transcripts. In situ hybridization revealed Spo11 transcript in sexual germ cells and undetectable levels of Spo11 transcript in asexual germ cells. We also found that an obligately asexual strain of pea aphid produced little spliced Spo11 transcript. Together, these results suggest that parthenogenetic oogenesis evolved from a meiosis-like, and not a mitosis-like, process and that the aphid reproductive polyphenism may involve a modification of Spo11 gene activity.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Pheromones, chemical signals that convey social information, mediate many insect social behaviors, including navigation and aggregation. Several studies have suggested that behavior during the immature larval stages of Drosophila development is influenced by pheromones, but none of these compounds or the pheromone-receptor neurons that sense them have been identified. Here we report a larval pheromone-signaling pathway. We found that larvae produce two novel long-chain fatty acids that are attractive to other larvae. We identified a single larval chemosensory neuron that detects these molecules. Two members of the pickpocket family of DEG/ENaC channel subunits (ppk23 and ppk29) are required to respond to these pheromones. This pheromone system is evolving quickly, since the larval exudates of D. simulans, the sister species of D. melanogaster, are not attractive to other larvae. Our results define a new pheromone signaling system in Drosophila that shares characteristics with pheromone systems in a wide diversity of insects.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · eLife Sciences
  • David L. Stern
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    ABSTRACT: The reciprocal hemizygosity test is a straightforward genetic test that can positively identify genes that have evolved to contribute to a phenotypic difference between strains or between species. The test involves a comparison between hybrids that are genetically identical throughout the genome except at the test locus, which is rendered hemizygous for alternative alleles from the two parental strains. If the two reciprocal hemizygotes display different phenotypes, then the two parental alleles must have evolved. New methods for targeted mutagenesis will allow application of the reciprocal hemizygosity test in many organisms. This review discusses the principles, advantages, and limitations of the test.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Trends in Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: How do evolved genetic changes alter the nervous system to produce different patterns of behavior? We address this question using Drosophila male courtship behavior, which is innate, stereotyped, and evolves rapidly between species. D. melanogaster male courtship requires the male-specific isoforms of two transcription factors, fruitless and doublesex. These genes underlie genetic switches between female and male behaviors, making them excellent candidate genes for courtship behavior evolution. We tested their role in courtship evolution by transferring the entire locus for each gene from divergent species to D. melanogaster. We found that despite differences in Fru+ and Dsx+ cell numbers in wild-type species, cross-species transgenes rescued D. melanogaster courtship behavior and no species-specific behaviors were conferred. Therefore, fru and dsx are not a significant source of evolutionary variation in courtship behavior.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Cell Reports
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    David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: Background In a series of landmark papers, Kyriacou, Hall, and colleagues reported that the average inter-pulse interval of Drosophila melanogaster male courtship song varies rhythmically (KH cycles), that the period gene controls this rhythm, and that evolution of the period gene determines species differences in the rhythm’s frequency. Several groups failed to recover KH cycles, but this may have resulted from differences in recording chamber size. Results Here, using recording chambers of the same dimensions as used by Kyriacou and Hall, I found no compelling evidence for KH cycles at any frequency. By replicating the data analysis procedures employed by Kyriacou and Hall, I found that two factors - data binned into 10-second intervals and short recordings - imposed non-significant periodicity in the frequency range reported for KH cycles. Randomized data showed similar patterns. Conclusions All of the results related to KH cycles are likely to be artifacts of binning data from short songs. Reported genotypic differences in KH cycles cannot be explained by this artifact and may have resulted from the use of small sample sizes and/or from the exclusion of samples that did not exhibit song rhythms.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2014 · BMC Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Male-specific products of the fruitless (fru) gene control the development and function of neuronal circuits that underlie male-specific behaviors in Drosophila, including courtship. Alternative splicing generates at least three distinct Fru isoforms, each containing a different zinc-finger domain. Here, we examine the expression and function of each of these isoforms. We show that most fru(+) cells express all three isoforms, yet each isoform has a distinct function in the elaboration of sexually dimorphic circuitry and behavior. The strongest impairment in courtship behavior is observed in fru(C) mutants, which fail to copulate, lack sine song, and do not generate courtship song in the absence of visual stimuli. Cellular dimorphisms in the fru circuit are dependent on Fru(C) rather than other single Fru isoforms. Removal of Fru(C) from the neuronal classes vAB3 or aSP4 leads to cell-autonomous feminization of arborizations and loss of courtship in the dark. These data map specific aspects of courtship behavior to the level of single fru isoforms and fru(+) cell types-an important step toward elucidating the chain of causality from gene to circuit to behavior.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Current biology: CB
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    David L Stern · Nicolás Frankel
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we provide a historical account of the contribution of a single line of research to our current understanding of the structure of cis-regulatory regions and the genetic basis for morphological evolution. We revisit the experiments that shed light on the evolution of larval cuticular patterns within the genus Drosophila and the evolution and structure of the shavenbaby gene. We describe the experiments that led to the discovery that multiple genetic changes in the cis-regulatory region of shavenbaby caused the loss of dorsal cuticular hairs (quaternary trichomes) in first instar larvae of Drosophila sechellia. We also discuss the experiments that showed that the convergent loss of quaternary trichomes in D. sechellia and Drosophila ezoana was generated by parallel genetic changes in orthologous enhancers of shavenbaby. We discuss the observation that multiple shavenbaby enhancers drive overlapping patterns of expression in the embryo and that these apparently redundant enhancers ensure robust shavenbaby expression and trichome morphogenesis under stressful conditions. All together, these data, collected over 13 years, provide a fundamental case study in the fields of gene regulation and morphological evolution, and highlight the importance of prolonged, detailed studies of single genes.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences
  • Troy R Shirangi · David L Stern · James W Truman
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    ABSTRACT: Many animals utilize acoustic signals-or songs-to attract mates. During courtship, Drosophila melanogaster males vibrate a wing to produce trains of pulses and extended tone, called pulse and sine song, respectively. Courtship songs in the genus Drosophila are exceedingly diverse, and different song features appear to have evolved independently of each other. How the nervous system allows such diversity to evolve is not understood. Here, we identify a wing muscle in D. melanogaster (hg1) that is uniquely male-enlarged. The hg1 motoneuron and the sexually dimorphic development of the hg1 muscle are required specifically for the sine component of the male song. In contrast, the motoneuron innervating a sexually monomorphic wing muscle, ps1, is required specifically for a feature of pulse song. Thus, individual wing motor pathways can control separate aspects of courtship song and may provide a "modular" anatomical substrate for the evolution of diverse songs.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2013 · Cell Reports
  • David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: The evolution of phenotypic similarities between species, known as convergence, illustrates that populations can respond predictably to ecological challenges. Convergence often results from similar genetic changes, which can emerge in two ways: the evolution of similar or identical mutations in independent lineages, which is termed parallel evolution; and the evolution in independent lineages of alleles that are shared among populations, which I call collateral genetic evolution. Evidence for parallel and collateral evolution has been found in many taxa, and an emerging hypothesis is that they result from the fact that mutations in some genetic targets minimize pleiotropic effects while simultaneously maximizing adaptation. If this proves correct, then the molecular changes underlying adaptation might be more predictable than has been appreciated previously.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2013 · Nature Reviews Genetics
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    Deniz F Erezyilmaz · David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: Holometabolous insects pass through a sedentary pupal stage and often choose a location for pupation that is different from the site of larval feeding. We have characterized a difference in pupariation site choice within and between sibling species of Drosophila. We found that, in nature, Drosophila sechellia pupariate within their host fruit, Morinda citrifolia, and that they perform this behavior in laboratory assays. In contrast, in the laboratory, geographically diverse strains of Drosophila simulans vary in their pupariation site preference; D. simulans lines from the ancestral range in southeast Africa pupariate on fruit, or a fruit substitute, whereas populations from Europe or the New World select sites off of fruit. We explored the genetic basis for the evolved preference in puariation site preference by performing quantitative trait locus mapping within and between species. We found that the interspecific difference is controlled largely by loci on chromosomes X and II. In contrast, variation between two strains of D. simulans appears to be highly polygenic, with the majority of phenotypic effects due to loci on chromosome III. These data address the genetic basis of how new traits arise as species diverge and populations disperse.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · Evolution
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    Justin Crocker · David L Stern
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    ABSTRACT: We tested whether transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) could mediate repression and activation of endogenous enhancers in the Drosophila genome. TALE repressors (TALERs) targeting each of the five even-skipped (eve) stripe enhancers generated repression specifically of the focal stripes. TALE activators (TALEAs) targeting the eve promoter or enhancers caused increased expression primarily in cells normally activated by the promoter or targeted enhancer, respectively. This effect supports the view that repression acts in a dominant fashion on transcriptional activators and that the activity state of an enhancer influences TALE binding or the ability of the VP16 domain to enhance transcription. In these assays, the Hairy repression domain did not exhibit previously described long-range transcriptional repression activity. The phenotypic effects of TALER and TALEA expression in larvae and adults are consistent with the observed modulations of eve expression. TALEs thus provide a novel tool for detection and functional modulation of transcriptional enhancers in their native genomic context.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Nature Methods
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    ABSTRACT: Background In most species of aphid, female nymphs develop into either sexual or asexual adults depending on the length of the photoperiod to which their mothers were exposed. The progeny of these sexual and asexual females, in turn, develop in dramatically different ways. The fertilized oocytes of sexual females begin embryogenesis after being deposited on leaves (oviparous development) while the oocytes of asexual females complete embryogenesis within the mother (viviparous development). Compared with oviparous development, viviparous development involves a smaller transient oocyte surrounded by fewer somatic epithelial cells and a smaller early embryo that comprises fewer cells. To investigate whether patterning mechanisms differ between the earliest stages of the oviparous and viviparous modes of pea aphid development, we examined the expression of pea aphid orthologs of genes known to specify embryonic termini in other insects. Results Here we show that pea aphid oviparous ovaries express torso-like in somatic posterior follicle cells and activate ERK MAP kinase at the posterior of the oocyte. In addition to suggesting that some posterior features of the terminal system are evolutionarily conserved, our detection of activated ERK in the oocyte, rather than in the embryo, suggests that pea aphids may transduce the terminal signal using a mechanism distinct from the one used in Drosophila. In contrast with oviparous development, the pea aphid version of the terminal system does not appear to be used during viviparous development, since we did not detect expression of torso-like in the somatic epithelial cells that surround either the oocyte or the blastoderm embryo and we did not observe restricted activated ERK in the oocyte. Conclusions We suggest that while oviparous oocytes and embryos may specify posterior fate through an aphid terminal system, viviparous oocytes and embryos employ a different mechanism, perhaps one that does not rely on an interaction between the oocyte and surrounding somatic cells. Together, these observations provide a striking example of a difference in the fundamental events of early development that is both environmentally induced and encoded by the same genome.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · EvoDevo
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    ABSTRACT: Acrylic cdr files. CorelDRAW files for the laser cutter to cut all parts used in the apparatus.
    Preview · Dataset · Jan 2013
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    ABSTRACT: Additional methods and additional results. Description of microphone performance, circuit design, acrylic courtship chambers, details of pulse and sine detection algorithms, and additional results.
    Preview · Dataset · Jan 2013
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    ABSTRACT: Amplifier pcb and sch files. pcb and sch files that provide design and detail for custom amplifier board. These files can be used to order printed circuit boards for the 32-channel amplifier board.
    Preview · Dataset · Jan 2013

Publication Stats

4k Citations
927.37 Total Impact Points

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Institutions

  • 2013-2015
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 2014
    • Janelia Farm Research Campus
      Ашбърн, Virginia, United States
  • 1990-2014
    • Princeton University
      • • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
      • • Department of Molecular Biology
      Princeton, New Jersey, United States
  • 2012
    • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
      コールド・スプリング・ハーバー, New York, United States
  • 2007
    • University of Cambridge
      • Department of Zoology
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom