Institute for Integrative Genome Biology


Amy Litt

Amy LittAssistant Professor of Plant Evolution and Development

Mailing Address:

Botany and Plant Sciences
Batchelor /2109
University of California
Riverside, CA 92521

Phone: (951) 827-2113
Fax: (951) 827-4437
Email: amy.litt@ucr.edu


PhD Plant Sciences 1999 City University of New York/New York Botanical Garden
M Phil Biology 1982 Yale University
BA 1975 Brown University

College/Division Affiliation:

College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

Center/Inst Affiliation(s):

Center for Conversation Biology (CCB)

Areas Of Expertise:

Plant Evolution; Plant Evolutionary Development; Plant Morphology

Research Summary:

We are interested in the genetic basis of plant diversity: how changes in the molecular processes that direct plant development have resulted in the diversity of plant morphology and abundance of varied plant species around us.  Our projects approach this question with different methods and at scales from population to family level. Sample projects include:

Identifying changes in gene function that allow some species to produce fleshy edible fruit (e.g., tomato) whereas other closely related species produce seeds in a dry woody pod (e.g., tobacco). Changes in gene function can be the result of changes in number (due to duplications and losses), sequence, or regulation, and we are currently exploring all of these in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) with a group of transcription factors involved in fruit development that have undergone changes in both number and function.  In addition to a major shift from dry to fleshy fruit during the evolution of Solanaceae, there are independent origins of fleshy fruit and a reversion to dry fruit, allowing us to determine if common mechanisms have evolved to direct the development of these fruit types.  We are using transgenic technology, transcriptomics, and analyses of sequence evolution to characterize the changes that have occurred in this gene lineage during Solanaceae evolution and to correlate these changes with the evolution of fruit types.   

Investigating the consequences on gene regulation and phenotype of combining two different genomes during the processes of hybridization and polyploidization.  The genus Nicotiana (which includes tobacco) has many natural hybrid species which range in age from recent up to millions of years old. In some cases, the same two species have hybridized repeatedly, with the resulting polyploid species showing different flower colors, sizes, and shapes.  In some hybrid species the phenotypes are transgressive, that is, they are outside the range of the parental phenotypes. We are currently using morphometric and transcriptomic methods to understand the relative roles of cis- and trans-regulatory factors in producing these hybrid phenotypes that deviate from the midpoint of the two diploid progenitors.

Elucidating the developmental and poulation genomic basis and the ecological consequences of shifts in mating system in species of the genus Collinsia (a member of the local flora). Collinsia is characterized by multiple species pairs each of which consists of a large-flowered outcrossing species and a small-flowered self-pollinating species. This collaborative project with colleagues from University of Tennessee, Temple University, and University of Toronto combines ecology, reproductive biology, artifical selection, and developmental biology to understand the processes by which this transition occurs, whether different species pairs show the same shifts in developmental processes, and what the implications for species success are with respect to reproductive fitness. 

Selected Publications:

List of publications from PubMed

Lab Personnel:

McCarthy, Elizabeth
Postgraduate Researcher: Hybridization and Polyploidy in Nicotiana
Maheepala, Dinusha
Graduate Student Researcher:  Gene Evolution in Dry and Fleshy Fruit Development
Lawhorn, Amber
Undergraduate Student Researcher: Cell Size and Cell Number Changes in Nicotiana Hybrids
Kurti, Amelda
Undergraduate Student Researcher: Cell Size and Cell Number Changes in Nicotiana Hybrids
Macon, Jenna
Undergraduate Student Researcher: Functional Analysis of an AP1/FUL Transcription Factor in Arabidopsis
Baghaei, Arman
Undergraduate Student Researcher: Gene Phylogeny in Solanaceae
Sanchez, Ivonne
Visiting Scholar: Phylogeny, Morphology and Floral Evolution of Amaranthaceae

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

Genomics Information

Institute of Integrative Genome Biology
2150 Batchelor Hall

Tel: (951) 827-7177
E-mail: Aurelia Espinoza, Managing Director