Assistant Professor Sushmita Roy has obtained a prestigious NSF CAREER award to pursue an innovative project entitled "Comparative Network Biology to Study the Evolution of Regulatory Networks".
Central to how living cells accomplish diverse biological functions are regulatory networks that control what genes need to be activated under different environmental conditions. As evolution is the ultimate tinkerer of living systems systematic comparisons of how regulatory networks evolve to drive species-specific differences are critical to understand cellular functions. Through advances in genomics, it is now possible to measure the activity levels of almost all genes for many species. This provides a unique opportunity to systematically compare these gene activity levels across multiple organisms and link changes in activity to changes in the networks of individual species. However, this is challenging because, first, such comparisons require the regulatory networks to be known in not one but multiple species including those that are poorly characterized, and second, computational methods to compare molecular datasets across species other than DNA sequence are in their infancy. This project will address these challenges by developing novel computational methods to identify and compare regulatory networks across multiple species, and correlate regulatory network patterns of divergence to phenotypic changes.