ALEJANDRO BERRIO
BLOG RESEARCH ART OUTREACH CURRICULUM VITAE ABOUT ME


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"None have fought better, and none have been more fortunate than Charles Darwin. He found a great truth, trodden under foot, reviled by bigots, and ridiculed by all the world; he lived long enough to see it, chiefly by his own efforts, irrefragably established in science, inseparably incorporated with the common thoughts of men, and only hated and feared by those who would revile, but dare not. What shall a man desire more than this?"
Thomas Henry Huxley

I did my Bachelor degree on Biology at the Universidad de Antioquia in Medell�n, Colombia, one of the best schools in my country. There, I very soon started working with insects; I had the opportunity of being part of several research laboratories. First, I worked as an assistant at the Entomological Collections Lab, where I studied the adaptation of Tenebrio molitor to extremely cold weather in order to see the expression of anti-freezing proteins. I learned how to dissect insects, among several other lab techniques (2002-2005).

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Then, I joined Camargo�s Lab at the University Research Center (SIU), where I did my undergrad thesis on germ cells and DNA repair in Schistocerca (Orthoptera),  and I published my first paper in an international journal. In addition to my thesis, I also did some research on cell culture of lymphoblastoid lines.

Camargo M, Duque-Correa MA, Berr�o A. A micro-spreading improvement for spermatogenic chromosomes from Triatominae (Hemiptera-Reduviidae). Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2006 May;101(3):339-40.

After graduating, I joined Bedoya's Lab (well known as GenMol) and Atehortua Lab for a little while, where I worked with  molecular systematics of Heliconia psittacorum in collaboration with MSc Maria Antonia Posada and Dr. John Kress from the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian Institute. These different research experiences not only taught me how to do science, but also got me interested in epigenetics and in the study of the relationship between phenotype and genotype, as an alternative way to think about evolution. I also decided I want to study gene regulation for the rest of my life.

From June 2007 until July 2009, I worked with Dr. Pablo Benavides head of the Entomology Department at Cenicaf�. I was part of the Coffee Genome project, where as a research associate, I worked with population genetics of the Coffee Berry Borer (CBB, Hypothenemus hampei).  I studied segregation of genetic markers with a variety of genetic tools such as lineage breeding, PCR, RT-PCR, Cytogenetics, and FISH. One of the most interesting results I got from the study of cytogenetics of germ cells in the CBB, is that this species presents two meiotic divisions without crossing-over on meiosis I, contrary to what was previously proposed by Brun et al. in 1995. This implicates that CBB could segregate paternal chromosomes through generations marking imprinting in the offspring and controlling sexual ratio. This research experience has further reinforced my interest in epigenetics, gene regulation and in the interactions between genotype and phenotype.
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Constantino LM. Acevedo FE, Navarro L, Berrio A, Benavides P. 2011. Biolog�a y morfolog�a comparada entre la Falsa Broca Hypothenemus obscurus y la Broca del Caf� Hypothenemus hampei (Coleoptera:Curculionidae: Scolytinae). Revista Colombiana de Entomolog�a.  37(2):173-182.


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I joined the Phelps Lab in August 2009 at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 2010, I moved to the University of Texas at Austin with Dr Phelps. Where I earned a PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in 2016. There, I was interested in the evolution and cognitive ecology of mating systems. More specifically, I studied the role of gene regulation in the evolution and development of attachment and sexual fidelity in prairie voles (i.e. Microtus ochrogaster). In general I was fascinated with the effect of epigenetic factors such as histone methylation/acetylation on transcription factor binding and gene expression. The ultimate hypothesis I wanted to test with my work is that gene regulation is important for adaptation. In other words I wanted to understand what makes prairie voles, prairie voles. One of the most interesting results I 've gotten is that Monogamy has evolved only once in New World voles in addition to signatures of natural selection that shape the regulatory elements of the avpr1a locus (i.e. arginine vasopresin receptor 1), a gene involved with pairboning and sexual fidelity.




Now, I am a postdoc associate in Wray lab at Duke University. Here I plan to develop a better understanding of the role of gene regulation in human adaptation to diet and its effects in the development and evolution of the brain.

SIDE PROJECTS:


As a collaborative side project, I have been working with Dr Dustin Rubenstein from Columbia University, I am sequencing the promoter of the Glucocorticoid Receptor in Superb Starlings and Zebra Finches. Dr Rubestein is working in an interesting project in which they want to understand the effect of living in unpredictable environments and its consequences on individual's stress physiology by looking at individual differences in DNA methylation at the promoter of the nr3c1 locus (The Amazing Superb Starling photo was taken with permission from Dr Rubenstein's Website). This work can be found here .



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In the last years, I have been working upon the development of my bioinformatic experience. So far, I have been involved in other projects that are being run in my lab. In particular, I annotated the reference transcriptome of the Alton's singing mice (Scotinomys teguina), which can be used in studies of differential gene expression in order to identify candidate genes relevant in the elaboration of song in this species.  Also, I am working upon the assembly, annotation and differencial gene expression analyses of the prairie vole transcriptome. This is in colaboration with Dr Larry Young at Emory University, Dr Lisa McGraw and others to have a bettre understanding of the regulatory mechanisms associated with the evolution of pairbonding.