Emeritus Professor of Comparative Embryology, University Museum of Zoology
Tel.: +44 (0)1223 336669
My laboratory has been concerned with how evolution of gene regulation might underlie morphological variation and the enormous diversity of body sizes and shapes in the animal kingdom. We have used as a model the spatial organization of bristle patterns in Diptera. The thorax of many fly species bears a stereotyped arrangement of sensory bristles that is species-specific. Development of bristles depends on the precise temporal and spatial expression of the achaete-scute genes whose products are bHLH-type transcription factors that direct neural development. Expression of the achaete-scute genes relies on numerous cis-regulatory sequences that respond to local positional cues. It is the evolution of these sequences and their response to upstream factors that drives much of the variation of bristle patterns in flies.
Since retirement I am using my knowledge of the evolution of embryonic development and animal diversity to write a series of books for children and adolescents.
- Negre B. and Simpson P. (2009). Evolution of the achaete-scute complex in insects: convergent duplication of proneural genes. Trends in Genetics. 25(4):147-52.
- Usui, K., Goldman, C., Gibert, J-M. and Simpson, P. (2008) Redundant mechanisms mediate bristle patterning on the Drosophila thorax. PNAS 105(51):20112-7.
- Simpson, P. and Ayyar, S. (2008) Evolution of cis-regulatory sequences in Drosophila. Book chapter Long range control of gene expression, Advances in Genetics. 61: 67-106.
- Pat Simpson (2007) The stars and stripes of animal bodies: evolution of regulatory elements mediating pigment and bristle patterns in Drosophila. Trends in Genetics, 23: 350-358.
- Sylvain Marcellini and Pat Simpson (2006) Two or four bristles: Functional evolution of an enhancer of scute in drosophilids. PloS Biology, 4:e386.