An ongoing discussion in the field of quantitative genetics is the contribution of genetic interactions to traits. One way to approach this is by thinking of molecular pathways, where multiple steps contribute to a process.
Understanding how many genes are involved in a trait and how these genes work together is very important for understanding diseases, but also in breeding and even ecology. Using the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans we can experimentally test how complex traits behave.
In this project, we use different genotypes as a toolkit to construct genetic mosaics. In that way we have already constructed so-called recombinant inbred lines (RILs), introgression lines (ILs) and are now constructing populations with two introgressions. These we use in gene-expression analysis. There are multiple thesis opportunities related to this research:
- Built your own worm: make strains by crossing two introgression lines and make a combination of two loci. This we typically do to understand how these loci interact phenotypically (e.g. both loci affect the expression of a gene, or another trait such as heat-stress survival). This thesis would include learning how to work with the model nematode C. elegans, experimental design, conducting genetic crosses, working with genetic markers (DNA-isolation, PCR), and data-analysis.
- Bioinformatic analysis: analyze a large transcriptomics dataset, plus follow-up analyses to understand the biology of transcriptional differences. This thesis includes learning how to program in R, understand and exploit genomic databases, and cutting-edge analytical methods for gene-expression analysis.