CEM Seminar - Jenny Tung
Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and Biology, Duke University
How social interactions shape the genome
Assistant Professor Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and Biology, Duke University How social interactions shape the genome In social species—including our own—social status and social integration can strongly influence fertility, survival, and other fitness-related traits. I will discuss how our work in nonhuman primates aims to unravel the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary history of these effects. To do so, we study both rhesus macaques in captivity and wild baboons in East Africa. In the macaques, we have found that experimentally manipulated social status strongly influences immune gene expression and the response to bacterial infection. In the baboons, we have identified strong predictive effects of social adversity, both in early life and adulthood, on lifespan and are actively investigating the molecular signatures of these predictors. Together, our research provides insight into the molecular targets of variation in the social environment, and suggests that our species’ dependence on social interactions has a long evolutionary history in the primate lineage.
Jenny Tung is an Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Biology at Duke University and an affiliate of the Duke Population Research Institute. Jenny joined the Duke faculty in 2012 after completing her post-doctoral training in the University of Chicago Department of Human Genetics and her PhD training in the Duke Biology department. Research in the Tung lab focuses on the intersection between behavior, social structure, and genes. The lab is particularly interested in how social environmental variables of known biodemographic importance, such as social status and social connectedness, feed back to influence gene regulation, population genetic structure, and individual fitness. We primarily ask these questions in socially complex nonhuman primates, which are natural models for human behavior, physiology, and demography. Currently, most of our work centers on a longitudinally studied population of wild baboons in Kenya (Tung co-directs the Amboseli Baboon Research Project) and captive rhesus macaques at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.