grass hopper

Building predictive models for the development of respiratory function


Noah Cowan, Johns Hopkins University, engineer and organismal biologist
Kendra Greenlee, North Dakota State University, organismal biologist
Kristi Montooth, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, organismal biologist

Research Exchange

Greenlee, Montooth & Helm (2014) made the case that the development of insect respiratory structures and the underlying metabolism is an excellent system to investigate how organisms walk the tightrope between stability and change. Metabolism is stable in its exquisite homeostatic control, but these homeostatic set points can be reset by environmental conditions. The system that we describe is well poised to provide new insight on what governs metabolic scaling within and between closely related species, and on how respiratory structures and the underlying cellular metabolism are integrated to maintain organismal performance across environments. We propose a handful of insects, where empirical investigation of the ontogeny of metabolic function would be particularly fruitful, including insects such as Drosophila melanogaster that would enable us to quantify gene x environment effects on this ontogenetic trajectory.

Regulatory feedback is certainly working to maintain stability and elicit change in this system. The challenge, however, is that the timescale of this feedback is much slower relative to the nearly instantaneous feedback control that Dr. Cowan has been quantitatively and predictively modeling using control theory (Cowan et al. 2014). This challenge warrants a mini-workshop for Drs. Cowan, Greenlee and Montooth to devote a week to working together to envision what data would need to be collected to use the control theory framework to build predictive models of how the processes underlying the ontogeny of metabolic rate are regulated in response to the environment to maintain respiratory performance during insect development.


Please contact Kendra Greenlee for more information about this research exchange.