Systems biology of high-altitude adaptation

 Schematic diagram of our systems-level approach to understanding high-altitude adaptation. 

Schematic diagram of our systems-level approach to understanding high-altitude adaptation. 

The cold, hypoxic conditions of high altitude habitats place severe pressures on aerobic pathways, and genes that are involved in these pathways are good candidates to uncover the genetic basis of high altitude adaptation.  We are testing for adaptive divergence in genes involved in aerobic metabolism and metabolic hypoxia defense pathways in several mammalian and avian species that occur in different altitudinal and thermal environments.  These projects range from studies of single species that are distributed along elevational and latitudinal gradients to large-scale comparative analyses, and they combine functional physiological assays with transcriptomic, metabolomic and population genomic datasets. We are using these experimental measures of organismal, biochemical, and molecular phenotypes to parameterize a hierarchical computational model of thermogenic capacity under hypoxia to achieve an integrated, systems-level understanding of physiological acclimatization and evolutionary adaptation to the combined challenges of hypoxia and cold exposure. Much of this work involves collaborations with Jon Velotta (Postdoc) and Cole Wolf (PhD Student) as well as external collaborators, Jay Storz at the University of Nebraska, Amina Qutub at Rice University, and Graham Scott and Grant McClelland at McMaster University. This work is currently funded by grants from the National Science Foundation (IOS 1354934 and IOS 144161).