Michael F. Palopoli

Affiliation: Biology
Professor of Biology

Teaching Area

Evolutionary Biology

Research Interests

My teaching and research interests are centered within the field of evolutionary genetics—studying how genes and genomes evolve, and why we see these patterns. Past research projects include: testing models of antagonistic coevolution by studying populations of nematodes that have evolved under different mating conditions; developing transgenic technology in fruit flies in order to test hypotheses about the function of non-coding DNA (collaboration with Jack Bateman); and using mitochondrial genome sequences to investigate the coevolutionary relationships between follicle mites and their mammalian hosts.

My lab is currently focused on studying the evolution of enhancers, which are short stretches of DNA that regulate transcription of a nearby gene(s). In particular, we are assessing how variable enhancer function is within and between species of fruit flies. To do so, we are measuring the way DNA is folded throughout the genome (termed chromatin conformation), since active enhancers are almost always very open in structure, whereas inactive enhancers tend to be folded up tightly. Our hypothesis is that enhancers vary in usage among natural populations and species of fruit flies. This work involves both laboratory research and the use of computers to analyze the genome-wide data. 


Figure 1. Principal Component Analysis

Figure 1. Principal Component Analysis graph showing the overall similarity in genome-wide chromatin conformation for brain tissue among three natural populations of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The population from Zimbabwe (Africa) has a very different chromatin structure than populations from Colombia (South America) or Oregon (North America), which supports our hypothesis. The divergence in chromatin conformation profiles among different Drosophila species is even greater.

Michael Palopoli Headshot


  • PhD, Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, 1987
  • MS, Biology, University of Michigan, 1989
  • BS, Psychology, University of Michigan, 1995