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The Di Stilio lab broadly investigates the genetic basis of key transitions during land plant evolution. The flower, and the interactions with pollinators that it enhances, are amongst the key innovations that have allowed angiosperms to become the most species-rich lineage of land plants. Current research takes an evolution-of-development approach to investigate the genetic basis of flower diversification. Our focus is on modulators of floral development (LEAFY, MADS-box and MYB transcription factors) as candidate genes for angiosperm diversification, and on their functional fate after gene duplication. We capitalize on the diversity of breeding and pollination systems in the genus Thalictrum, an early-diverging eudicot with a strategic phylogenetic position between model systems. Through comparative expression and functional analysis of reproductive organ identity genes, and of downstream genes responsible for features of the perianth involved in pollinator attraction, we hope to contribute to a deeper understanding of the genetic basis of flower diversification. We have recently begun to explore the ancestral role of flowering related gene orthologs in non flowering plant lineages.
Verónica Di Stilio completed her undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) in her native Argentina, where she specialized in Plant Ecology. After working for two years as a teaching assistant and pollination biologist at UBA, she migrated to the US where she obtained a Ph.D. in Plant Biology at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) working on plant sex chromosome evolution under the advice of David Mulcahy. Her postdoctoral training started in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (UMass) on pollen gene expression and the role of the floral transcription factor SUPERMAN on cell division with Alice Cheung. She continued her postdoctoral training with David Baum and Elena Kramer at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, where she was introduced to the field of Evolution of Development. She joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at University of Washington in 2003. She continues to pursue her interests in the evolution of plant development with an emphasis on flowers. In the past she has taught Introductory Biology (Genetics and Evolution), and currently teaches a Plant Evolution lab class and a Plant EvoDevo Senior Seminar.