Project Description

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Portrait of Amanda Moehring


  • Genetic & neural basis of behavioural variation
  • Female mating behaviour & aggression
  • Genetic basis of hybrid sterility



Professor, Department of Biology, Western University

The broad-scale research goals of my laboratory are to understand the genetic and neural bases of variation in behaviour.  Two behaviours that are critical for survival and reproduction are aggression and mating behaviour. While these traits have been extensively studied in males, their underlying genetic and neural basis in females is poorly understood. My research group seeks to identify the underlying genetic and neural variation that leads to variation in female mating receptivity and female aggression. We use the model system of Drosophila due to the extensive genetic and molecular tools this species offers.  We use a mix of quantitative genetics, molecular genetics, neuroscience, cellular biology, and behavioural assays in order to understand these complex traits.

The Moehring lab studies the genetic and neural basis of complex traits. We use the model system of Drosophila due to the extensive genetic and molecular tools this species offers.  We use a mix of quantitative genetics, molecular genetics, neuroscience, cellular biology, and behavioural assays in order to understand these complex traits.

Genetic Variation and Behaviour:
Natural selection acts upon variation in a trait, making the identification of genes contributing to trait variation critical to our understanding of evolutionary genetics. Animals exhibit a wide array of behaviours that are necessary for survival and reproduction, yet very little is known about the genetic basis of variation in these behaviours. Our work focuses on identifying the genetic basis of variation in female mate rejection behaviour, both within and between species.

Neural Basis of Female Behaviours:
The traits of mating behavior and aggression have been extensively studied at the neural level in males, but are poorly understood in females. We use the excellent tools available in Drosophila to identify individual neurons and neural circuitry underlying female mate rejection and female aggression.

Genetic Basis of Species Isolation due to Hybrid Sterility:
In cases where species are able to hybridize, the resulting offspring are often sterile, yet the genetic basis of this mechanism (which prevents species from merging) is poorly understood. Using a combination of gene expression assays and quantitative genetic mapping, our research seeks to identify the genetic basis of hybrid sterility.

Effect of mistranslating tRNAs on neurodegeneration:
The process of translating RNA into protein has to be precise in order to maintain the proper quality and balance of proteins within the cell. One of the primary molecues involved in translation is tRNA, and each genome contains many copies of these tRNAs. While this process should be highly constrained and robust, there are a surprising number of naturally-occurring tRNA variants that would cause mistranslation within an organism. In a collaboration with three other labs at Western (Brandl, O’Donoghue, Duennwald) we have developed the first multicellular model of mistranslating tRNAs. We are testing the effect of this mistranslation on fitness and neural function, and quantifying whether there is a compounded effect when mistranslating tRNAs are combined with gene products that also disrupt protein function, such as those undlerlying certain neurodegenerative diseases.

Bendall, E. E., K. M. Mattingly, A. J. Moehring and C. E. Linnen. 2023. Lack of intrinsic postzygotic isolation in haplodiploid male hybrids despite high genetic distance. Am. Nat. 202:40.

Isaacson, J. R., M. D. Berg, J. Jagiello, J. Villén, C. J. Brandl and A. J. Moehring. 2022. A novel mistranslating tRNA model in Drosophila melanogaster has diverse, sexually dimorphic effects. G3. 12: jkac035

Moehring, A. J. (originally 2011; republished as part of a special issue). Heterozygosity and its unexpected correlations with hybrid sterility. Evolution 65:2621-30. In: Women in Speciation. 2022. A special issue of Evolution highlighting “25 outstanding speciation papers written by women that will shape the future of speciation research”.

Pardy, J. A., S. Lahib, M. A. F. Noor andA. J. Moehring. 2021. Intraspecific genetic variation for behavioral isolation loci in Drosophila. Genes. 12: 1703.

Brown, S. G., D. B. Brenman-Suttner, A. G. McInnes, K. Lew, A. J. Moehring, J. H. Bauer and A. F. Simon. 2021. Inheritance of pheromone profiles from aged D. melanogaster? MicroPubBiol. 2021:10.17912/micropub.biology.000459.

Mushtaha, F. N., T. K. Kuehn, O El-Deeb, S. A. Rohani, L. W. Helpard, J. Moore, H. Ladak, A. J. Moehring, C. A. Baron and A. R. Khan. 2021. Microstructural characterization and validation of a 3D printed axon-mimetic phantom for diffusion MRI. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 00:1–15. DOI: 10.1002/mrm.28886.

Fitzpatrick, C. L., S. E. Alter, J. W. Boughman, F. Débarre, S. Edmands, A. Moehring, L. Moyle, S. P. Otto, O. Ronce, M. J. Rubin and A. L. Sweigart. 2021. The virus evolves: four public health priorities for reducing the evolutionary potential of SARS-CoV-2. BioScience. 71(4):319.

Ward, H. K. E.and A. J. Moehring. 2021. Genes underlying species differences in cuticular hydrocarbon production between Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. Genome. 64:87-95.

Merritt, T. J. S., A. J. Simmonds, R. Fernandez-Gonzalez and A. J. Moehring. 2021. Introduction: CANFLY XV 2019. Genome. 64: vii-viii. doi: 10.1139/gen-2020-0143.

Zhao, J., M. B. Azad, C. Burton, V. A. Crooks, J. Dawson, A. T. Ford, A. Kaida, A. Krishnaswamy, C. Kuok, C. L. Mah, M. McTaggart, A. J. Moehring, D. Robert, A. Schulte-Hostedde, H. Sparling, M. A. De Vera and T. R. Patel. 2020. Science meets parliament: Building relationships between scientists and policymakers. Science and Public Policy. 48:447-450.

Chowdhury, T., R. M. Calhoun, K. Bruch and A. J. Moehring. 2020. The fruitless gene affects female receptivity and species isolation. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 287:20192765.

Dhillon, A., T. Chowdhury, Y. E. Morbey and A. J. Moehring. 2020. Reproductive consequences of an extra long-term sperm storage organ in Drosophila melanogaster. BMC Evol. Biol. 20:159.

Kanippayoor, R., J. H. M. Alpern, and A. J. Moehring. 2020. A common suite of cellular abnormalities and spermatogenetic errors in sterile hybrid males in Drosophila. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 287:20192291.