The Panfilio Lab focuses on embryonic development in insects to investigate both (a) epithelial tissue morphogenesis and (b) molecular evolution and comparative genomics on macroevolutionary timescales.
Our research on morphogenesis - the creation of form - explores how the fertilized egg develops the correct organismal shape, and how strategies differ between species. Which features are robust, and which are sensitive to perturbation and could result in birth defects? To actively protect the embryo, the insect extraembryonic tissues exhibit many epithelial remodeling behaviors that are typical of animal development. We explore their activity and genetic regulation through functional, live cell imaging investigations, primarily in the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum.
At the same time, we focus on the milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus, as an experimentally tractable model for comparative investigations centered on the Hemiptera, the largest order of hemimetabolous insects. The Hemiptera, including medical and agricultural pests such as bed bugs and aphids, are diverse but poorly studied. Recent genome sequencing now allows us to investigate the genetic basis of what makes a bug, a bug.
Overall, our main aim is to understand the regulatory control that strikes a balance between the evolution of species-specific features and robust development and organismal function.