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The Levinson Emerging Scholars Program

Emily Hsieh - Biochemistry, Biology

Emily HsiehEmily Hsieh was first exposed to the field of evolutionary biology the summer before entering the University of Washington and since then has been interested in utilizing the intricacies and wonders of Drosophila genetics to better understand one of Darwin's "mysteries of mysteries" - the formation of new species. Under the direction of her mentors Drs. Harmit Malik and Nitin Phadnis, she has been involved in various projects exploring her research interests of genetic conflict and speciation in the context of Drosophila. With the generous support of the Levinson Emerging Scholars Program, Emily hopes to continue her research in understanding the genetic basis of speciation in Drosophila and contribute to the understanding of the origin of species. The culmination of Emily's undergraduate experience as a MCD biology and biochemistry student and as a Malik lab undergraduate researcher has strengthened her desire to pursue a PhD in biology. Emily enjoys spending her spare time mentoring students through the UW Dream Project and would also like to integrate educational outreach and science into her future career.

Mentor: Harmit Malik & Nitin Phadnis, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Project Title: Disentangling the Role of Dosage Compensation in F1 Hybrid Incompatibility

Abstract: The process for how species form in nature remains a complex and fascinating puzzle. One approach to solving this mystery is by identifying genes involved in F1 hybrid incompatibilities, characteristics that typify an F1 hybrid offspring. Of particular interest is the dosage compensation complex, also known as the male-specific lethal (MSL) complex in Drosophila, since it contains MSL proteins that show strong signatures of rapid evolution, but not in all closely related species. Much controversy surrounds the idea of the MSL complex playing a role in F1 hybrid incompatibility, and here, I use a three part analysis to approach this question. Drosophila melanogaster and simulans are fitting models to study F1 hybrid incompatibilities as they are recently diverged species that produce inviable F1 hybrid males. The first experiment will test to see if the MSL complex is functional in F1 hybrid males through the usage of a male-killing bacterium Spiroplasma poulsonii, a detector of functional MSL complexes. The second assay will examine if the MSL complex is aberrantly turned on in attached X F1 hybrid females as a proxy to study MSL complex function in F1 hybrid males. Finally, the third experiment determines the functional divergence of D. melanogaster and D. simulans MSL complex proteins. Within the MSL complex, either MSL1 or MSL2 are necessary for male viability, so by creating transgenic flies with different combinations of D. melanogaster and D. simulans msl1 and msl2, I will be able to use an interspecies complementation test to identify if divergence of these two genes has led to F1 hybrid incompatibility. This inclusive set of experiments offer multiple approaches to uncover a possible role of dosage compensation in the mechanism of speciation in Drosophila.