Luisa Pallares

Evolutionary Genomics of Complex Traits

Friedrich Miescher Laboratory
Faculty in: TIPP, IMPRS


  • PhD at MPI for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, 2015
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, MPI for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, 2015-2016
  • HFSP Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton University, USA, 2016-2021
  • Max Planck Research Group Leader at the FML, Tübingen, starting February 2022


Research Interest
Our research focuses on understanding the genetic basis of between-individual variation in complex traits – traits that are regulated by a large number of genomic loci (see Tautz, Reeves, & Pallares 2020) - and how such complex genetic architectures, instead of being static properties of a trait, get re-shaped when populations are exposed to different environments (genotype-by-environment interactions or GxE, see Pallares, Lea, et. al. biorxiv). To explore these questions within the context of natural genetic variation, we use wild-derived outbred Drosophila melanogaster populations as model system. We integrate experimental and analytical tools across the fields of quantitative and population genetics, molecular and computational biology, and use experimental evolution to generate and analyze large-scale genomics datasets.
In addition to our interest in the genetic basis of morphological (see Pallares et. al., 2015) and transcriptional variation, we are particularly interested in understanding if/how phenotypic robustness is regulated in such traits. That is, we aim to understand not only why individuals in a population look different from each other, but also why some individuals are more vulnerable than others when exposed to stressful/new environments. For this, we study the genetic regulation of phenotypic variance as a proxy for robustness, and aim to understand the role of such loci in the adaptation process.
Conceptually, our research tackles long-standing questions in evolutionary biology including the genotype-phenotype map and its context-dependent nature, and the (apparent) conflict between robustness and evolvability.

Available PhD Projects in the IMPRS

  • Experimental evolution of phenotypic robustness: Projects on this topic will address a) how does the adaptation process shapes phenotypic variance and b) which are the underlying genetic loci regulating changes in phenotypic variance during adaptation. Using wild-derived fly populations, the student leading this project will use/develop expertise in experimental evolution, generation and bioinformatic analysis of large genomic datasets to map the genetic basis of morphological and transcriptional robustness before, during, and after the population adapts to a new environment.

Selected Reading

  • Pallares LF*, Lea AJ*, Han C, Filippova EV, Andolfatto P, Ayroles JF. Diet unmasks genetic variants that regulate lifespan in outbred Drosophila. bioRxiv
  • Tautz D, Reeves RG, Pallares LF. (2020) New experimental support for long standing concepts of poly-genic genetics implies that the Mendelian genetic paradigm needs to be revised. In: The New (Old) Genetics, Halle, eds. Wittinghofer, A. and Jäckle, H., NAL-live 2020.1, v1.0
  • Pallares LF, Carbonetto P, Gopalakrishnan S, Parker CC, Ackert-Bicknell CL, Palmer AA, Tautz D. (2015) Mapping of craniofacial traits in outbred mice identifies major developmental genes involved in shape determination. PLoS Genetics 11(11): e1005607,



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