Research Highlight: Clark Lab


Their model species, Pieris rapae

The Clark Lab, alongside the Morehouse Lab (Department of Biological Sciences), have been using the the bursa copulatrix as a model to research the mechanisms that equip an entire organ with its characteristic physiological functions.

Digestive Organ in the Female Reproductive Tract Borrows Genes from Multiple Organ Systems to Adopt Critical Functions

Camille Meslin1, Melissa S. Plakke2, Aaron B. Deutsch2, Brandon S. Small1, Nathan I. Morehouse2*, Nathan L. Clark1*
1 Department of Computational and Systems Biology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
2 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Abstract: “The origin of novel organismal traits is a critical question in evolutionary biology. While different studies have revealed mechanisms by which novel morphological or physiological traits have evolved, the mechanisms that equip an entire organ with its characteristic physiological functions are relatively unknown. We have addressed this question by using the bursa copulatrix as a model. The bursa copulatrix is a very unique organ within the female reproductive tract in butterflies and moths that processes the male spermatophore, a nuptial gift that provides the female with nutrition. Using gene expression from 9 tissues across 2 developmental stages and phylogenetic analyses, we revealed that the bursa borrowed genes from non-reproductive tissues to gain muscular and digestive functions, transforming it into a stomach-like organ within the reproductive tract. We also showed the bursa responds to spermatophore deposition by altering its gene expression pattern. Finally, we identified bursa-specific genes that may provide novel bursa-specific functions. Overall, our work provides critical insight into female reproductive traits and genetic mechanisms that may be used to equip an organ with its physiological functions.”

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of our Department

DSC_0114The department celebrated 10 years of Computational and Systems Biology this past month at the Mansions on Fifth.

Computational biology was established as a research discipline at the University of Pittsburgh with the vision of the Senior Vice Chancellor and Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Arthur S. Levine, who recruited Dr. Bahar to create a new Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics in March 2001, which soon became a highly visible center. The creation of the Department of Computational Biology within the School of Medicine followed in October 2004, later becoming Computational and Systems Biology in 2010.

Thank you for helping us celebrate 10 years of research, education accomplishments, collaborations, hard work, and memorable events.

To view pictures of the event, click here.

Dr. Clark receives Charles E. Kaufman Foundation Grant

ClarkDr. Nathan L. Clark received a grant of $150,000 in the New Investigator Research category from the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation for research on “Co-evolutionary Signatures as a Novel Approach to Gene Discovery”. Their project will use signals of co-evolutionary interactions to identify novel gene network components in humans and model organisms. One of their specific experimental goals is to assign human cardiac muscle proteins to their trafficking modifiers.

In 2011, the Foundation and its Supporting Organizations awarded more than $41.1 million in grants to a vast array of nonprofit organizations, students through scholarships, and medical researchers, based on donor interests and specific purposes of individual funds.

Since 1945, The Pittsburgh Foundation has been connecting its generous donors with the critical needs of our community. Donors who have established funds through the Foundation can support virtually any area of charitable interest in Pittsburgh, or anywhere in the United States. Because the Foundation is a public charity, donors benefit from significant tax advantages.

Endowment funds held by the Foundation range from $10,000 to $40 million, created by individuals and organizations with a passion for Pittsburgh and a deep commitment to their community. More than 1,000 individuals, families and organizations have established funds at The Pittsburgh Foundation, which exists in perpetuity – growing each year – to provide an ever-increasing resource to benefit the community.

(Read more)

Dr. D. Lansing Taylor is featured in Pitt Med, Spring 2014

TaylorPick up an issue of the Spring 2014 edition of Pitt Med to read the article, Illuminating Work, featuring D. Lansing Taylor, Ph.D.

The article speaks of his pioneering work in fluorescent imaging technology. Taylor launched an imaging center at CMU in 1982, and the University of Pittsburgh followed suit with their own imaging center nine years later. These centers continue to drive innovation in  fluorescent imaging technology in the Pittsburgh area. Taylor later launched Cellomics and two other companies.

In his role as the Director of the University of Pittsburgh Drug Discovery Institute, he has the goal to assist both academic and commercial collaborators to discover and to develop efficacious and safe therapeutics based on the integration of outstanding science, technology and drug discovery/development methods. He is particularly interested in protein-protein interactions, including the development of biosensors of the interactions.

(Read more)


CPCB Program featured in the Scientist

cpcb 100px thumbnailOur Joint Carnegie Mellon – University of Pittsburgh Ph.D. Program in Computational Biology (CPCB) was highlighted in the Scientist. The article spoke of the new interdisciplinary environments being created by today’s big data sets generated by high-throughput sequencing and large-scale proteomic screens. Our program spans over 20 departments and 7 Centers/Institutes between CMU and Pitt.

Co-founded in 2005 by Dr. Ivet Bahar and Dr. Robert Murphy, our Ph.D. program was a pioneer in this “new biology,” integrating the quantitative fields with traditional biology. Dr. Dan Zuckerman, associate director of the CPCB program, said, “Biology on the whole is becoming more and more quantitative, and not just from the big-data point of view in terms of genomics, but also in terms of the types of precise measurements that people are doing in the biological world.” (Read more)


Olena, A. (2014, Feb). New School. Retrieved from The Scientist: