Dr. Laura Allison Romano
|Title:||Associate Professor, Evolutionary Developmental Biologist|
|Office:||313 Talbot Hall|
|Lab:||402 Talbot Hall|
B.S. in Biology from College of William and Mary, 1993
Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University of Arizona, 2000
Associate Professor, Department of Biology at Denison University, 2010 - present
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology at Denison University, 2003 - 2010
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Biology at Duke University, 2000 - 2003
FYS 103 - Engaging the Mission
BIOL 150 - Introduction to the Science of Biology
BIOL 201 - Cellular and Molecular Biology
BIOL 324 - Developmental Biology
BIOL XXX - Invertebrate Zoology (NEW in Fall 2014)
The favorite part of my job is teaching, whether as a mentor, academic advisor, or course instructor. I particularly enjoy the constant flow of students in and out of my office as they stop by for advice on a range of issues, both academic and personal. Consistent with this, I am eager to participate in activities that afford me the opportunity for extensive interactions with students (such as maintaining a team of research assistants to work in my lab, or mentoring a group supported by the Posse Foundation). In addition, I volunteer for committees that are most related to their needs (including the Committee on Residential Life, and the Student Enrollment and Retention Committee). In the past year, I was involved in organizing a new support group for students and other members of the campus community who are dealing with serious, chronic medical conditions. While helping students, I try to demonstrate how they can make their own contributions to the campus community and beyond. For example, I frequently ask students in my classes to apply what they have learned in ways that might benefit society (such as proposing a way to overcome climate change in BIOL 150, designing a genetically engineered organism to feed a large population in BIOL 201, or developing a new contraceptive in BIOL 324). Recently, I even incorporated a “service learning” project that is designed to improve maternal health in our impoverished county (as part of BIOL 324). I hope that my efforts, besides serving to inspire and educate, also fosters unlimited compassion for others, in keeping with the mission of Denison.
Transcription is regulated by non-coding sequences known as cis-regulatory elements that are usually located upstream of the protein-coding sequence, but may be located downstream of the protein-coding sequence or even within an intron. Proteins known as transcription factors interact with these cis-regulatory elements to specify the level, timing, and spatial expression of genes. Changes in the sequence of cis-regulatory elements, or the activity of transcription factors that interact with them, can have functional consequences during development. In fact, such changes are hypothesized to be the primary basis for differences in the anatomy, physiology, and behavior of organisms (including disease susceptibility in humans).
My research utilizes the sea urchin as a model system to explore the functional consequence of changes in genes and their cis-regulatory elements with regard to protein-binding affinity, patterns of gene expression in the embryo, and/or phenotype. Most recently, my lab has focused on the extent to which there is variation in the cis-regulatory region of SM50 in the "purple urchin" and several closely related species. This gene is essential for development of the larval skeleton and its transcriptional regulation has already been characterized to a considerable extent. We are now extending our study to additional genes as well as more distantly related species such as the "pencil urchin" in an attempt to identify the molecular basis of differences in the origin and behavior of skeleton-forming cells during development.
Many undergraduate students have worked in my laboratory including Michelle Clark ('13), Efua Thompson ('13), Kayla Ako-Asare ('12), Emily Miller ('12), Saira Tekelenburg ('12), Donyea Moore ('11), Kelsey Wehrenberg ('10), Cecilia Murch ('09), Sadie Orlowski ('09), Ashley Dunkle ('08), Katie Merva ('08), Kyle Thaman ('08), Elaine Binkley ('07), Jenna Walters ('07), Laura Cannon ('05), and Nik Kiehl ('05). They have been supported by the Anderson Endowment, the Bowen Endowment, the Laura C. Harris Fund, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Office of Provost, and the NIH.
Clark, M., Thompson, E., and Romano, L.A. (2012) A novel approach to deliver
morpholino oligonucleotides into sea urchin eggs through an endocytosis-mediated
mechanism. Manuscript in prep.
Ako-Asare, K., Clark, M., Miller, E., Moore, D., Tekelenburg, S., Thompson, E.,
Erkenbrack, E., and Romano, L.A. (2012) Characterization of eight late regulatory
genes that control formation of the larval skeleton in the primitive pencil urchin,
Eucidaris tribuloides. Manuscript in prep.
Walters, J.L., Binkley, E.M., Haygood, R. and Romano, L.A. (2008) Evolutionary
analysis of the cis-regulatory region of SM50 in strongylocentrotid sea urchins.
Developmental Biology 315, 567-578.
Romano, L.A. and Wray, G.A. (2006) Endo16 is required for gastrulation in the sea
urchin Lytechinus variegatus. Development Growth and Differentiation 48, 487 – 497.
Romano, L.A., and Wray, G.A. (2003) Conservation of endo16 expression in sea
urchins despite evolutionary divergence in both cis and trans-acting components of
transcriptional regulation. Development 130, 4187 – 4199.
Wray, G.A., Hahn, M., Abouheif, E., Balhoff, J., Pizer, M., Rockman, M.V., and
Romano, L.A. (2003) Evolution of eukaryotic transcription. Molecular Biology and
Evolution 20, 1377 – 1419.
Romano, L.A., and Runyan, R.B. (2000) Slug is an essential target of TGFβ2 signaling in
the developing chicken heart. Developmental Biology 223, 91 – 102.
Romano, L.A., and Runyan, R.B. (1999) Slug is a mediator of epithelial-mesenchymal
cell transformation in the developing chicken heart. Developmental Biology. 212, 243 –
Runyan, R.B., Wendler, C.C., Romano, L.A., Boyer, A.S., Dagle, J.M., and Weeks, D.L.
(1999) Utilization of antisense oligodeoxynucleotides with embryonic tissues in culture.
Methods, 18(3), 316 – 321.
In situ hybridization showing Endo16 expression in the endoderm of a "happy" sea urchin embryo (from Romano and Wray, 2003).