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Molecular and Human Genetics

Houston, Texas

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
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Gad Shaulsky, Ph.D.

Gad Shaulsky, Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics

Other Positions

Assistant Dean of Admissions, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Professor, Programs in Developmental Biology; Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences; and Structural & Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics
Director, Graduate Program in Molecular and Human Genetics
Faculty Member, W.M. Keck Center for Computational and Structural Biology
Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Rice University


B.S., Tel Aviv University, 1985
M.S., Tel Aviv University, 1986
Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, 1991
Postdoc, University of California, San Diego, 1997

Research Interests

Functional genomics: In the past we have used microarrays to discover gene function in development, de-differentiation, spore germination, drug resistance, and chemotaxis (e.g. Booth et al., 2005; Van Driessche et al., 2007). We also showed that the microarray is a good phenotyping tool for discovering epistatic relationships between genes in the cAMP-dependent Protein Kinase regulatory pathway (Van Driessche et al., 2005). Recently, we started to use RNA-sequencing as our main platform for transcriptional profiling. We compared the developmental transcriptomes of D. discoideum and D. purpureum, two Dictyostelium species whose genomes are as different from each other as the genomes of humans and jawed fish, but whose developmental morphologies are very similar. We found vast similarities between the two transcriptomes (Parikh et al., 2010). The data are available for interactive exploration on dictyExpress. In collaboration with Dr. Adam Kuspa at BCM we are generating thousands of mutant Dictyostelium strains and we are analyzing them using transcriptional profiling. We are currently focusing on ABC transporters and on several transcription factors.

Self-recognition in Dictyostelium

Self-recognition in Dictyostelium. Two strains, labeled in green and red, segregate from each other during the aggregation phase of development thanks to a novel self-recognition mechanism. Photography: Shigenori Hirose.

The evolution of social behavior in Dictyostelium: Social organisms must deal with cheaters - individuals that reap the benefits of sociality without paying the costs. In Dictyostelium, some cells sacrifice themselves and benefit other cells that may be genetically different, providing a fertile ground for cheating. In collaboration with Drs. Strassmann and Queller at Rice University and with Dr. Adam Kuspa at BCM, we found over 100 genes that participate in social interactions (Santorelli et al., 2008). We are using genetic tools to characterize mechanisms that determine social interactions and test how cooperators resist cheating (Khare and Shaulsky, 2006; Khare et al., 2009; Khare and Shaulsky, 2010).

Allorecognition in Dictyostelium: Multicellular organisms can distinguish self from non-self through various mechanisms. We have found that D. discoideum cells preferentially cooperate with their relatives (Ostrowski et al., 2008), possibly reducing their exposure to strains that can cheat on them. We are now investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie kin discrimination. We found two cell-cell adhesion genes, tgrB1 and tgrC1, that are highly polymorphic in natural populations and are required for allorecognition (Benabentos et al., 2009). Gene replacement experiments have shown that the sequence polymorphism in these genes is sufficient to explain allorecognition in this system (Hirose et al., 2011). We are investigating the cellular and genetic mechanisms that regulate allorecognition.

Data Mining: We are collaborating with Dr. Blaz Zupan and his group at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia to develop new concepts in genetic analysis. Previously we have developed a tool that performs automated epistasis analysis, GenePath. We also developed dictyExpress, a web tool that can access and analyze our transcriptional profiling data. We are in the process of developing a tool for automated analysis of RNA-sequencing data.

Selected Publications

  1. Ho HI, Hirose S, Kuspa A, Shaulsky G (2013). Kin Recognition Protects Cooperators against Cheaters. Curr. Biol. 23(16): 1590-5. PubMed PMID: 23910661
  2. Hirose S, Benabentos R, Ho H-I, Kuspa A, Shaulsky G (2011). Self-recognition in social amoebae is mediated by allelic pairs of tiger genes. Science 333: 467-70. PubMed PMID: 21700835
  3. Parikh A, Miranda ER, Katoh-Kurasawa M, Fuller D, Rot G, Zagar L, Curk T, Sucgang R, Chen R, Zupan B, Loomis WF, Kuspa A, Shaulsky G (2010). Conserved developmental transcriptomes in evolutionarily divergent species. Genome Biol. 11(3): R35. PubMed PMID: 20236529
  4. Khare A, Shaulsky G (2010). Cheating by exploitation of developmental prestalk patterning in Dictyostelium discoideum. PLoS Genet. 6(2): e1000854. PubMed PMID: 20195510
  5. Khare A, Santorelli LA, Strassmann JE, Queller DC, Kuspa A, Shaulsky G (2009). Cheater-resistance is not futile. Nature 461(7266): 980-2. PubMed PMID: 19794414
  6. Benabentos R, Hirose S, Sucgang R, Curk T, Katoh M, Ostrowski EA, Strassmann JE, Queller DC, Zupan B, Shaulsky G, Kuspa A (2009). Polymorphic Members of the lag Gene Family Mediate Kin Discrimination in Dictyostelium. Curr. Biol. 19(7): 567-572. PubMed PMID: 19285397
  7. Ostrowski EA, Katoh M, Shaulsky G, Queller DC, Strassmann JE (2008). Kin discrimination increases with genetic distance in a social amoeba. PLoS Biol. 6(11): e287. PubMed PMID: 19067487
  8. Santorelli LA, Thompson CRL, Villegas E, Svetz J, Dinh C, Parikh A, Sucgang R, Kuspa A, Strassmann JE, Queller DC, Shaulsky G (2008). Facultative cheater mutants reveal the genetic complexity of cooperation in social amoebae. Nature 451(7182): 1107-10. PubMed PMID: 18272966
  9. Van Driessche N, Alexander H, Min J, Kuspa A, Alexander S, Shaulsky G (2007). Global Transcriptional Responses to Cisplatin in Dictyostelium discoideum Identify Potential Drug Targets. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A 104(39): 15406-11. PubMed PMID: 17878305
  10. Van Driessche N, Demsar J, Booth EO, Hill P, Juvan P, Zupan B, Kuspa A, Shaulsky G (2005). Epistasis analysis with global transcriptional phenotypes. Nat. Genet. 37(5): 471-7. PubMed PMID: 15821735

Awards and Honors

2006, 2010: Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award
2000-2002: Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar (March of Dimes)

Contact Information

Gad Shaulsky, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza, MS BCM225
Houston, TX, 77030, U.S.A.

Phone: 713-798-8082
Fax: 713-798-1021

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