Derek Caetano-Anollés

Derek Caetano-Anolles

Derek Caetano-Anollés, Ph.D.


Research Interests

  • Recent gene duplication of zinc finger transcription factors – Derek’s PhD research in the Stubbs Lab focused on investigating the role of ZNF286A, a Krüppel-type zinc finger transcription factor with a recently evolved human-specific duplicate, ZNF286B. These transcription factors drive differentiation of neural precursor cells and may play undiscovered key roles in critical neuronal developmental pathways, including pathways that have been implicated in microcephaly, schizophrenia, and other neurological disorders.
  • Molecular roots of the social brain – During his graduate career, Derek also worked on the Simons Project, which investigates the conserved molecular foundations for social behavior in animal brains utilizing mice, stickleback fish, and bees as models. He focused on analyzing the RNA and protein expression profiles of the mouse brain after encountering aggressive or maternal-caring stimuli.
  • Genetic framework for mouse facial structure under selective pressures – Derek has since left the Stubbs Lab to work at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, where his research involves identifying the genes responsible for controlling skull shape and facial structure during mouse development, and how those features are impacted by evolutionary and selection pressures.

Selected Publications

  • Rittschof C, Bukhari S, Sloofman L, Caetano-Anollés D Cash-Ahmed A, Kent M, Lu X, Sanogo O, Weisner PA, Zhang H, Bell A, Ma J, Sinha S, Robinson G, Stubbs L. (2014). Neuromolecular responses to social challenge: Common mechanisms across mice, fish and bees. PNAS, 111(50):17929–17934. [Link]
  • Caetano-Anollés D. (2013). Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). In: Maloy S, Hughes K, editors. Brenner’s Encyclopedia of Genetics 2nd Edition. Waltham: Academic Press. Volume 5, pages 392-395. [Link]
  • Nowick K, Fields C, Gernat T, Caetano-Anollés D, Kholina N, Stubbs L. (2011). Gain, Loss and Divergence in Primate Zinc-Finger Genes: A Rich Resource for Evolution of Gene Regulatory Differences between Species. PLoS One, 6(6):e21553. [Link]
  • Stubbs L, Sun Y, Caetano-Anollés D. (2011). Function and evolution of C2H2 zinc finger arrays. Subcellular Biochemistry, 52:75-94. [Link]

Full publication list at LinkedIn, ResearchGate, and ORCID.

LinkedIn Profile

Outside the Lab

  • Derek practices art in both traditional and digital media (visit his Bēhance). He is also very well-versed in the art of illeism.

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Annie Weisner

Annie Weisner, Neuroscience

Annie Weisner, Neuroscience

History Annie is a native Nashvillian who started her research career at Vanderbilt University, where she earned her Bachelors of Arts in Neuroscience and Theatre. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked in the Center for Human Genetics, where she investigated the role of heavy-metal processing in autism by screening patients and families for polymorphisms in heavy-metal transport genes. Additionally, she worked on projects investigating the role of glutathione during oxidative injury through site-directed mutagenesis of the gamma-glutamylcysteine gene, and performed large-scale screening of patient populations for polymorphisms in urea cycle genes.

She joined the UIUC Neuroscience Program and Medical Scholars program in 2009, and is working toward her M.D. and Ph.D. Upon completion of her degrees in 2018, she plans to pursue a career as a physician-scientist specializing in Pediatric Neurology, and she intends to continue her research in developmental neuroscience.

Current Project Annie is investigating the role of newly discovered neurodevelopmental gene, Auts2, in abnormal neurodevelopment. Mutations in the Auts2 locus cause autism, epilepsy, and mental retardation in humans, but little is known about the function of this gene or its role during neurodevelopment. She is analyzing the role of AUTS2 in differentiation of neurons in culture to ask what the function of AUTS2 is in normal neurodevelopment. As well, Annie utilizes a unique translocation mutant called 16Gso which displays epilepsy and autistic-like behaviors resulting from a reduction in AUTS2 expression to how AUTS2 disruption can lead to abnormal neurodevelopment.

Annie also works on the Simons Project, investigating the genetic pathways underlying evolutionarily conserved social behaviors, such as aggression and maternal caring, through RNA-sequencing and protein expression analysis of mouse brain after acute social stimuli.

Past Projects Annie began her work in the Stubbs lab studying the role of Pax6 alternative transcripts in development of the eye through histological analysis of the 1Gso translocation mutant.


Elso, C; Lu, X; Weisner, PA; Thompson, HL; Skinner, A; Carver, E; Stubbs, L (2013). A reciprocal translocation dissects roles of Pax6 alternative promoters and upstream regulatory elements in the development of pancreas, brain, and eye. Genesis, 51:9, 630-646.

Le, TM; Magarik, JA; Cunningham, GR, Weisner, A et al (2008).  gamma-Glutamylcysteine co-migrates at the peak typically assigned to L-aspartate in ion-exchange chromatography-based amino acid analysis.  Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, 93:3, 255-255.

Outside the Lab Annie is the Grants Director of Champaign-Urbana’s only free charitable clinic, Avicenna Community Health Center, and manages a team of 12 graduate, medical, undergraduate student, and faculty volunteers to secure funding for the clinic. She also has twice organized the Illinois Summer Neuroscience Institute, a weeklong research program for undergraduates from underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing a career in Neuroscience research. She has taught the Medical College’s Cell and Tissue Biology laboratory course since Fall of 2012, and last year ranked in the top 10% of all University instructors, as rated by her students.

In her free time, Annie is an avid powerlifter, cyclist, and climber. She loves to garden and to cook, and teaches healthy cooking classes at the Common Ground Food Co-op. She also volunteers with several organizations for special needs children in town, including taking students on the Swann School’s nature walks, volunteering for the Challenger softball league, and teaching at the CIRCLE Academy.

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