Caleb D. Phillips' Laboratory
My research focuses on microbiomes of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) and invasive aoudad (Ammotragus lervia). I am developing my study using specimens from previously sampled individuals from locations in the United States, British Columbia and Alberta in addition to on-going collecting efforts in Texas. My goal is to use community ecology approaches to characterize spatiotemporal microbiome variation in healthy bighorn sheep and aoudad microbiomes, and to understand how disease susceptibility may relate to diversity, composition and dispersal of microbial communities living in association with hosts. My research benefits greatly from collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wild Sheep Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society and the Genetic Resources Collection biobank of bighorn sheep samples.
I study the molecular mechanisms of craniofacial development during embryogenesis. My research focuses on how developmental genes are regulated by the RNA binding protein Musashi. Musashi proteins bind to regulatory sequences of mRNA during development, influencing cell proliferation and tissue growth. It is my goal to determine the effects of Musashi activity in the oral palate during development. By managing a mouse colony, and organizing the breeding of mice, I am able to observe embryonic palate development. In order to study molecular interactions within the palate, I conduct laboratory analysis on RNA, DNA, and proteins extracted from embryonic tissue. Through studying the effects of Musashi in the developing palate, I aim to identify genes whose differential regulation by Musashi may be important in mammalian craniofacial evolution.
I am broadly interested in factors that influence microbiome community structure, and, in turn, how the microbiome affects host processes. Through my dissertation work I am identifying how genomic variation among patients influences microbial colonization of chronic wounds. In collaboration with a local wound clinic I am also characterizing abundance and composition patterns of wound microbiomes distributed across the United States. My research utilizes the Wolcott Wound Care Research Collection at the NSRL's GRC.
I investigate the drivers of gut microbiome composition in bats in degraded and unmodified habitats. My study focuses on three bat species occurring in Malaysia that have different social dynamics (solitary, small group and colonial) and rely on insect communities as their prey. I am using community ecology approaches and structural equation modeling to define how endogenous and exogenous processes governing microbiome assembly and disassembly.
My research aims to characterize the genomic distribution of the Musashi binding element (MBE) in 3' UTRs of mammalian protein-coding genes. Since its discovery, the RNA binding protein Musashi has been found to be critical for cell fate and development through its role as a post-transcriptional regulator. Using bioinformatic methods to survey mammalian 3' UTRs, my objective is to determine where MBEs exhibit phylogenetic conservation, as well as nonrandom frequency and distribution patterns with respect to gene ontology. I expect this information to provide insight into candidate Musashi targets, as well as those for which differential regulation has evolved across mammals.