Department of Biology & Biochemistry


4 South 1.5


Tel: +44 (0) 1225 386401 


Current Projects

  • Induced recombination in flies and honey bees
  • A systems biology approach to sexual conflict
  • Genetic basis of aging in Drosophila

Dr Nicholas Priest 


Current Research

How are sexes maintained? Why do males of many species harm their mates? Why and how does aging occur? These questions are usually addressed by separate fields (Sex, Conflict & Aging), but I think of them as specific cases of the more general problem of how traits are expressed and how they evolve.

The research in the Priest lab lies at the interface of evolution, behavioural ecology, reproductive physiology and molecular genetics. Much of this work involves parental effects, which occur when the physiology and genotype of mothers influence trait expression in offspring. We have found that older mothers produce offspring with reduced longevity in fruit flies. We have found that maternal exposure to toxic compounds in male seminal fluid stimulates parental effects which improve the fitness of daughters. We have also found that mating increases the rate of genetic recombination in the maternal genome. Population genetic theory and life history models that we have constructed show that parental effects can alter the rate, direction, and endpoint of phenotypic evolution. These findings indicate that parental effects have an integral role in trait expression and evolution.

The current projects in the lab extend from our previous findings. We conduct empirical studies to understand how physiological responses to sexual behaviour in parents contribute to the rate of adaptation. We take advantage of the power of Drosophila genetics to understand how parental effects and recombination rate operate at a molecular level. To motivate and evaluate the empirical studies, we develop explicit cross-generational population genetic and demographic models. The ultimate goal of the work in the Priest lab is to resolve classic questions about aging, sexual behaviour and sex.

For potential students: We currently have funding for postgraduate studentships. Each of the projects involves empirical studies and modeling. If you work with me you will receive training in reproductive physiology, genetics and evolutionary theory. You will also play an important role in determining the direction of your project. Click on the title below for a description of the project.


Spencer, H. G. and Priest, N. K., 2016. The evolution of sex-specific dominance in response to sexually antagonistic selection acceptance. The American Naturalist, 187 (5), pp. 658-666.

Hunt, V., Zhong, W., Mcclure, C., Mlynski, D., Duxbury, E., Charnley, A. and Priest, N., 2015. Cold-seeking behaviour mitigates reproductive losses from fungal infection in Drosophila:Temperature preferences of infected fruit flies. Journal of Animal Ecology

Jensen, K., Mcclure, C., Priest, N. and Hunt, J., 2015. Sex-specific effects of protein and carbohydrate intake on reproduction but not lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster. Aging Cell, 14 (4), pp. 605-615.

Wang, Y., Lan, Y., Weinreich, D., Priest, N. and Bryson, J., 2015. Recombination Is Surprisingly Constructive for Artificial Gene Regulatory Networks in the Context of Selection for Developmental Stability. In: The 13th European Conference on Artificial Life, 2015-07-20 - 2015-07-24.

McClure, C. D., Zhong, W., Hunt, V. L., Chapman, F. M., Hill, F. V. and Priest, N. K., 2014. Hormesis results in trade-offs with immunity. Evolution, 68 (8), pp. 2225-2233.

Laabei, M., Recker, M., Rudkin, J. K., Aldeljawi, M., Gulay, Z., Sloan, T. J., Williams, P., Endres, J. L., Bayles, K. W., Fey, P. D., Yajjala, V. K., Widhelm, T., Hawkins, E., Lewis, K., Parfett, S., Scowen, L., Peacock, S. J., Holden, M., Wilson, D., Read, T. D., Van Den Elsen, J., Priest, N. K., Feil, E. J., Hurst, L. D., Josefsson, E. and Massey, R. C., 2014. Predicting the virulence of MRSA from its genome sequence. Genome Research, 24 (5), pp. 839-849.

Zhong, W., Mcclure, C., Evans, C., Mlynski, D., Immonen, E., Ritchie, M. and Priest, N. K., 2013. Immune anticipation of mating in Drosophila:Turandot M promotes immunity against sexually transmitted fungal infections. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280 (1773), 20132018.

Vanbergen, A. J., Baude, M., Biesmeijer, J. C., Britton, N. F., Brown, M. J. F., Bryden, J., Budge, G. E., Bull, J. C., Carvell, C., Challinor, A. J., Connolly, C. N., Evans, D. J., Feil, E. J., Garratt, M. P., Greco, M. K., Heard, M. S., Jansen, V. A. A., Keeling, M. J., Kunin, W. E., Marris, G. C., Memmott, J., Murray, J. T., Nicolson, S. W., Osborne, J. L., Paxton, R. J., Pirk, C. W. W., Polce, C., Potts, S. G., Priest, N. K., Raine, N. E., Roberts, S., Ryabov, E. V., Shafir, S., Shirley, M. D. F., Simpson, S. J., Stevenson, P. C., Stone, G. N., Termansen, M. and Wright, G. A., 2013. Threats to an ecosystem service:Pressures on pollinators. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 11 (5), pp. 251-259.

Greco, M. K., Lang, J., Gallmann, P., Priest, N., Feil, E. and Crailsheim, K., 2013. Sugar concentration influences decision making in Apis mellifera L. workers during early-stage honey storage behaviour. Open Journal of Animal Sciences, 3 (3), pp. 210-218.

Priest, N. K., Rudkin, J. K., Feil, E. J., Van Den Elsen, J. M. H., Cheung, A., Peacock, S. J., Laabei, M., Lucks, D. A., Recker, M. and Massey, R. C., 2012. From genotype to phenotype: can systems biology be used to predict Staphylococcus aureus virulence? Nature Reviews Microbiology, 10 (11), pp. 791-797.

Zhong, W. and Priest, N. K., 2011. Stress-induced recombination and the mechanism of evolvability. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 65 (3), pp. 493-502.

Priest, N. K. and Wade, M. J., 2010. Maternal-zygotic epistasis and the evolution of genetic diseases. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, 2010, 478732.

Priest, N. K., Roach, D. A. and Galloway, L. F., 2008. Cross-generational fitness benefits of mating and male seminal fluid. Biology Letters, 4 (1), pp. 6-8.

Priest, N. K., Galloway, L. F. and Roach, D. A., 2008. Mating frequency and inclusive fitness in Drosophila melanogaster. American Naturalist, 171 (1), pp. 10-21.

Galloway, L. F., Roach, D. A. and Priest, N. K., 2008. Support for a pluralistic view of behavioural evolution. Biology Letters, 5 (1), pp. 28-29.

This list was generated on Thu May 26 13:12:32 2016 IST.

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