April Hill – Genetics, Evolution, and Development

Left: Immunostaining of sponge amoeboid cell expressing a component of the Wnt
signaling pathway (secreted frizzled related protein) in green. Right: Intracellular
algal symbionts (orange) inhabiting various sponge cell types.

We use marine and freshwater sponges as model systems to ask questions about the genetics and development of animal evolution and symbioses. Sponges are ancient animals that retain characteristics of an early and successful experiment in multicellularity while also sharing some highly conserved features (e.g., stem cells) and molecular blueprints with all other animals, including humans. These unique features provide a system where we can explore hypotheses about the evolution of all animals. Research projects in my lab focus on the role of conserved developmental control genes and gene regulatory networks that are uniquely animal, but may have originated prior to the advent of adaptations such as nervous and immune systems, muscles, or eyes. We also study gene networks and the molecular linkages between intracellular microbial symbionts and sponges as we try to understand how the host:symbiont interaction is important for animal development and function. The research projects in my lab have implications for basic biomedical research as well as environmental and climate change studies.


Recent Publications (*denotes student co-author)

P. Windsor-Reid, E. Matveev, A. McClymont, D. Posfai*, A. Hill, S.P. Leys (2018) Wnt signaling and polarity in freshwater    sponges. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 18:12.

J. Cramer, D. Pohlmann*, F. Gomez, L. Mark*, B. Kornegay*, C. Hall*, N. Walavalkar, S. Bilinovich, J. Prokop, A. Hill, D. Williams (2017) Methylation specific targeting of a chromatin remodeling complex from sponges to humans. Scientific Reports. 7:40674.

Q. Schenkelaars, O. Quintero, C. Hall*, L. Fierro-Constain, E. Renard, C. Borchiellini, A. Hill (2016) ROCK inhibition abolishes the establishment of the aquiferous system in Ephydatia muelleri (Porifera, Demospongiae). Developmental Biology. 412: 298-310.

B. Lawson, M. Hill, A. Hill, T. Heist*, and C. Hughes*. (2015) An Agent-Based Simulation Model of Sponge: Algae Symbiotic Relationships. Proceedings of the 2015 Winter Simulation Conference. Pp. 1012-1013.

A. Riesgo, K. Peterson*, C. Richardson*, T. Heist*, B. Strehlow*, M. McCauley*, C. Cotman*, M. Hill, A. Hill (2014) Transcriptomic analysis of differential host gene expression upon uptake of symbionts: a case study with Symbiodinium and the major bioeroding sponge Cliona varians. BMC Genomics. 15: 376.