Noah Whiteman, Ph.D.

Noah Whiteman

Title
Associate Professor
Department
Dept of Integrative Biology
Phone
(510) 664-7545
Research Expertise and Interest
evolutionary biology, genomics, host-parasite interactions, adaptation and rates of evolution, population genetics
Research Description

We use a vertically-integrated approach to study adaptations involved in the evolution of parasitism and host resistance. Tools we use include those from biochemistry, experimental evolution, genetics and genomics, molecular biology, and neuroscience. We hope to unravel how the genomes of free-living organisms change evolutionarily to facilitate the evolution of parasitism, which is one of the most common strategies of life. We also are interested in the genetic basis of host defense against parasites and how hosts and parasites co-evolve over short and deep evolutionary time.  To address these questions, we use a model host-parasite system involving a parasitic fly genus nested in the Drosophila lineage (Scaptomyza flava) and the genetic model plant Arabidopsis thaliana as a host. These two species interact in nature and both have substantial genomic resources and molecular tools. Adult females of S. flava use their cutting ovipositor that serves as both an egg-laying organ and a trophic organ. The egg hatches into a larva, which then creates a mine in the leaf, where it completes development. To pursue this research, we are supported by an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

In the News

October 2, 2019

CRISPRed flies mimic monarch butterfly — and could make you vomit

The fruit flies in Noah Whiteman’s lab may be hazardous to your health. Whiteman and his University of California, Berkeley, colleagues have turned perfectly palatable fruit flies — palatable, at least, to frogs and birds — into potentially poisonous prey that may cause anything that eats them to puke. In large enough quantities, the flies likely would make a human puke, too, much like the emetic effect of ipecac syrup.

In the News

October 2, 2019

CRISPRed flies mimic monarch butterfly — and could make you vomit

The fruit flies in Noah Whiteman’s lab may be hazardous to your health. Whiteman and his University of California, Berkeley, colleagues have turned perfectly palatable fruit flies — palatable, at least, to frogs and birds — into potentially poisonous prey that may cause anything that eats them to puke. In large enough quantities, the flies likely would make a human puke, too, much like the emetic effect of ipecac syrup.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
October 3, 2019
Emily Makowski
The Scientist's 'Image of the Day' pictures a fruit fly walking on a Monarch Butterfly's wing to represent a landmark study conducted at Berkeley. The researchers, led by associate integrative biology professor Noah Whiteman, used CRISPR gene-editing technology to re-create evolutionary mutations that could help a creature adapt to the environment. They accomplished this by engineering fruit flies that can safely consume toxic milkweed and protect it from predation by making it toxic to would-be predators, just as the Monarch butterfly evolved. "All we did was change three sites, and we made these superflies," Professor Whiteman says. "But to me, the most amazing thing is that we were able to test evolutionary hypotheses in a way that has never been possible outside of cell lines." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources, including Scientific American.
October 2, 2019
Ben Guarino
In a landmark use of CRISPR gene-editing technology to re-create evolutionary mutations that could help a creature adapt to the environment, a team of researchers led by associate integrative biology professor Noah Whiteman has engineered fruit flies that can safely consume toxic milkweed and protect it from predation by making it toxic to would-be predators, just as the Monarch butterfly evolved. "All we did was change three sites, and we made these superflies," Professor Whiteman says. "But to me, the most amazing thing is that we were able to test evolutionary hypotheses in a way that has never been possible outside of cell lines. ... It would have been difficult to discover this without having the ability to create mutations with CRISPR." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Other stories on this topic have appeared in the New York Times, Science, and Daily Mail Online.
FullStory (*requires registration)

Loading Class list ...
.