I am a fourth year doctoral candidate mentored by Dr. Andrea Gore and Dr. David Crews. I began my career in science as a sophomore undergraduate researcher with Dr. Andrea Gore exploring the role of the glutamate receptor subunit NR2b in reproductive aging. I extended these studies by attempting to locally block the NR2b subunit via stereotaxic surgery in areas of the brain that are involved in the control of the cyclic nature of the female reproductive cycle. I graduated from the University of Texas in 2009 with a B.S. in Neurobiology with honors and a B.S. in Psychology.
In the summer of 2009 I joined the laboratory of Dr. David Crews as a lab tech. My research as a lab tech focused on an endocrine disruptor chemical vinclozolin known to be anti-androgenic that has feminizing properties when administered to fetuses in utero during late gestation. Interestingly, previous work suggested that certain aspects of the vinclozolin phenotype could be inherited for multiple generations beyond direct exposure. I began to characterize the phenotype present in animals three generations removed from original exposure. Further, we challenged the disease phenotype caused by vinclozolin with chronic restraint stress during adolescence to determine if there were any combinatorial effects. We observed social and anxiety behaviors, hormone levels, neural gene expression, and neural metabolic activity in both male and female rats. We found that both ancestral vinclozolin exposure and chronic restraint stress altered various endpoints but when combined, displayed a phenotype predicted by neither hit individually. Further, it appears that females are particularly vulnerable to the combination of vinclozolin exposure and chronic restraint stress.
In 2011 I was awarded a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and joined the Crews Lab as a graduate student. My work as a lab tech in the Crews lab brought about many questions, including how exactly the phenotype caused by vinclozolin is inherited. Previous research suggested that vinclozolin was not a potent mutagen and the consistency of the phenotype across generations could not be explained by random mutation. Hence, it was predicted that vinclozolin might affect the epigenome. I am now focused on determining how vinclozolin might affect the epigenome during germ cell reprogramming, a critical mechanism that returns partially differentiated embryonic cells into germ cells that will eventually become every sperm or egg cell an individual has available to reproduce. I believe that vinclozolin may be directly altering the process of reprogramming in germ cells and that these alterations will persist for multiple generations.
Maffucci, J. A., Noel, M. L., Gillette, R., Wu, D., & Gore, A. C. (2009). Age- and hormone-regulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit NR2b in the anteroventral periventricular nucleus of the female rat: implications for reproductive senescence. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 21(5), 506–517. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2009.01860.x
Crews, D., Gillette, R., Scarpino, S. V., Manikkam, M., Savenkova, M. I., & Skinner, M. K. (2012). Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(23), 9143–9148. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118514109
Gillette, R., Miller-Crews, I., Nilsson, E. E., Skinner, M. K., Gore, A. C., & Crews, D. (2014). Sexually dimorphic effects of ancestral exposure to vinclozolin on stress reactivity in rats. Endocrinology, 155(10), 3853–3866. doi:10.1210/en.2014-1253
Crews, D., Gillette, R., Miller-Crews, I., Gore, A. C., & Skinner, M. K. (2014). Nature, nurture and epigenetics. Mol Cell Endocrinol, 398(1-2), 42–52. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2014.07.013
Gillette, R., Miller-Crews, I., Skinner, M. K., & Crews, D. (2015). Distinct actions of ancestral vinclozolin and juvenile stress on neural gene expression in the male rat. Frontiers in Genetics, 6, 56. doi:10.3389/fgene.2015.00056
Scarpino, S.V., Gillette, R., Crews, D. (2014). multiDimBio: an R package for the design, analysis, and visualization of systems biology experiments. arXiv: 1404.0594. http://arxiv.org/abs/ 1404.0594.