Meredith Protas, PhD

Dr. Protas joined the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 2014. Her research focuses on the genetics and developmental biology of cave dwelling animals that have reduced eyes and pigmentation.

Meredith Protas

Assistant Professor
Director MS in Biological Sciences Program

Office: Science Center #222
Lab: Science Center #223
[email protected]

Academic Area

Genetics, Developmental Biology, and Evolutionary Biology

Educational Background

  • PhD, Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • BA, Biology, Pomona College, Claremont, CA

Teaching and Research

Teaching: Cell and Developmental Biology, Genetics and Molecular Biology, Research Methodology, Science Seminar, and Developmental Biology Lab

Research: We work on a crustacean species that has both surface dwelling and cave dwelling populations with extreme differences in eye size, pigmentation, and appendage length. Our goal is to investigate the genetics and developmental biology behind these differences and to understand how and why these characteristics evolved.

Recent Publications

  • Re C1*, Fiser Z1, Perez J*, Tacdol A*, Trontelj P, Protas ME. Common genetic basis of eye and pigment loss in two distinct cave populations of the isopod crustacean, Asellus aquaticus. Integr Comp Biol. In press. *Undergraduate authors 1Authors contributed equally
  • Protas ME, Weh E, Footz T, Kasberger J, Baraban SC, Levin AV, Katz LJ, Ritch R, Walter M, Semina EV, Gould DB (2017) Mutations of Conserved Non-Coding Elements of PITX2 in Patients with Ocular Dysgenesis and Developmental Glaucoma. Hum Mol Genet.
  • Battelle BA, Ryan JF, Kempler KE, Saraf SR, Marten CE, Warren WC, Minx P, Montague MJ, Green PJ, Schmidt SA, Fulton L, Patel NH, Protas ME, Wilson RK, Porter ML (2016) Opsin repertoire and expression patterns in horseshoe crabs: evidence from the genome of Limulus polyphemus (Arthropoda: Chelicerata). Genome Biol Evol. pii: evw100.
  • Stahl BA, Gross JB, Speiser DI, Oakley TH, Patel NH, Gould DB, Protas ME. A Transcriptomic Analysis of Cave, Surface, and Hybrid Isopod Crustaceans of the Species Asellus aquaticus. PLoS One. 2015 Oct 13;10(10):e0140484. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140484.
  • Speiser DI, Pankey M, Zaharoff AK, Battelle BA, Bracken-Grissom HD, Breinholt JW, Bybee SM, Cronin TW, Garm A, Lindgren AR, Patel NH, Porter ML, Protas ME, Rivera AS, Serb JM, Zigler KS, Crandall KA, Oakley TH (2014). Using phylogenetically-informed annotation (PIA) to search for light-interacting genes in transcriptomes from non-model organisms. BMC Bioinformatics. 15:350.
  • Kronforst, M., Barsh, G., Kopp, A., Mallet, J., Monteiro, A., Mullen, S., Protas, M., Rosenblum, E., Schneider, C., and H. Hoekstra (2012). Unraveling the thread of natureʼs tapestry: the genetics of diversity and convergence in animal pigmentation. Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research. 10.1111/j.1755- 148X.2012.01014.x. /li>
  • Protas, M. E. and W. R. Jeffery (2012). Evolution and development in cave animals: from fish to crustaceans. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology. 10.1002/wdev.61.
  • Protas, M. E., Trontelj, P. and N. H. Patel (2011). The genetic basis of eye and pigment loss in the cave crustacean, Asellus aquaticus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108: 5702-7.
  • Liubicich, D. M., Serano, J. M., Pavlopoulos, A., Kontarakis, Z., Protas, M. E., Kwan, E., Chaterjee, S., Tran, K. D., Averof, M., and N. H. Patel (2009). Knockdown of Parhyale Ultrabithorax recapitulates evolutionary changes in crustacean appendage morphology. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 106:13892-6.
  • Gross, J. B., Protas, M., Conrad, M., Scheid, P. E., Vidal, O., Jeffery, W. R., Barowsky, R. and C. J. Tabin (2008). Synteny and candidate gene prediction using an anchored linkage map of Astyanax mexicanus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105:20106-11.
  • Protas, M. E. and N. H. Patel (2008). Evolution of coloration patterns. Ann. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol. 24: 425-446.
  • Protas M., Tabansky I., Conrad M., Gross J. B., Vidal O., Tabin C. J., Barowsky R. (2008). Multi-trait evolution in a cave fish, Astyanax mexicanus. Evol Dev 10(2):196-209.
  • Protas, M., Conrad, M., Gross, J. B., Tabin, C., Barowsky, R. (2007). Regressive evolution in the Mexican cave tetra, Astyanax mexicanus. Current Biology 17(5)452-454.
  • Protas, M.E., Hersey, C., Kochanek D., Zhou, Y., Wilkens, H., Jeffery, W.R., Zon, L.I., Barowsky, R., Tabin, C.J. (2006). Genetic analysis of cavefish reveals molecular convergence in the evolution of albinism. Nature Genetics 38(1):107-11.
  • Abzhanov, A., Protas, M., Grant, B.R., Grant, P.R., Tabin, C.J. (2004). Bmp4 and morphological variation of beaks in Darwin's finches. Science 305(5689):1462-5.

Recent Presentations

  • 2018 Invited Speaker at the Symposium, “Evolution in the dark: unifying understanding of eye loss” at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting. San Francisco, CA.
  • 2017 Invited Speaker at the Crustacean Workshop. Janelia Farms, MD.
  • 2016 Speaker at the International Conference on Subterranean Biology. Fayetteville, AR.
  • 2015 Poster presentation at the EvoDevo PanAm Conference. Berkeley, CA
  • 2014 Speaker at the International Society for Eye Research meeting. San Francisco, CA.
  • 2013 Invited Speaker at Lund University in Sweden.