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Christine Merlin

Christine Merlin

Assistant Professor

Department of Biology

Biological Sciences Building East
Room 118D
3258 TAMU

College Station , TX 77843-3258
Office Phone: (979) 845-3655


  1. B.S., 2002, Animal Biology, University Paris 6 Pierre and Marie Curie, France.
  2. M.S., 2003, Invertebrate Physiology, University Paris 6 Pierre and Marie Curie, France.
  3. Ph.D., 2006, Insect Physiology, University Paris 6 Pierre and Marie Curie, France.
  4. Postdoctoral research, Molecular Neuroethology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA.


Research Interests

Circadian clocks in the migration of the monarch butterfly: from genes to behavior

Our research broadly lies in understanding how organisms respond and adapt to changing environments, with an emphasis on circadian biology. Organisms from bacteria to humans use circadian clocks to control a plethora of biochemical, physiological and behavioral rhythms. These clocks are synchronized to daily and seasonal environmental changes to allow organisms to tune specific activities at the appropriate times of day or year.

In our laboratory, we use the eastern North American migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) as a model system to study animal clock mechanisms and the role of circadian clocks and clock genes in a fascinating biological output, the animal long-distance migration. Every fall, like clockwork, millions of monarch butterflies start migrating thousands of miles from North America to reach their overwintering sites in central Mexico. During their journey south, migrating monarchs use a time-compensated sun compass orientation mechanism to maintain a constant flight bearing. Circadian clocks located in the antennae provide the critical internal timing device for compensation of the sun movement across the sky over the course of the day. The recent sequencing of the monarch genome and the establishment of genetic tools to knockout clock genes (and others) in vivo using nuclease-mediated gene targeting approaches provides us with a unique opportunity to uncover the molecular and cellular underpinnings of the butterfly clockwork, its migratory behavior and their interplay.

We are using integrative approaches that include molecular, genetic, genome-wide profiling approaches, and behavior to more specifically address: 1) how the circadian clock and clock genes govern the photoperiodic seasonal migratory switch and 2) the molecular and genetic bases underlying the migratory behavior. We also continue to develop innovative gene-targeting approaches (using TALENs) to knock-in reporter tags into clock genes loci to gain insights into the clock circuitry involved in both seasonal responses and navigation.

Selected Publications

  1. Merlin C, Beaver LE, Taylor OR, Wolfe SA & Reppert SM (2013) Efficient targeted mutagenesis in the monarch butterfly using zinc-finger nucleases. Genome Res 23:159-68 Full text
  2. Guerra PA, Merlin C, Gegear RJ & Reppert SM (2012) Discordant timing between antennae disrupts sun compass orientation in migratory monarch butterflies. Nat Commun 3:958 Full text
  3. Zhan S, Merlin C, Boore JL & Reppert SM (2011) The monarch butterfly genome yields insights into long-distance migration. Cell 147:1171-85 Full text
  4. Legeai F, Malpel S, Montagné N, Monsempes C, Cousserans F, Merlin C, François MC, Maïbèche-Coisné M, Gavory F, Poulain J & Jacquin-Joly E (2011) An Expressed Sequence Tag collection from the male antennae of the Noctuid moth Spodoptera littoralis: a resource for olfactory and pheromone detection research. BMC Genomics 12:86 Full text
  5. Merlin C, Gegear RJ & Reppert SM (2009) Antennal circadian clocks coordinate sun compass orientation in migratory monarch butterflies. Science 325:1700-4 Full text
  6. Malpel S, Merlin C, François MC & Jacquin-Joly E (2008) Molecular identification and characterization of two new Lepidoptera chemoreceptors belonging to the Drosophila melanogaster OR83b family. Insect Mol Biol 17:587-96 Full text
  7. Merlin C, Lucas P, Rochat D, François MC, Maïbèche-Coisne M & Jacquin-Joly E (2007) An antennal circadian clock and circadian rhythms in peripheral pheromone reception in the moth Spodoptera littoralis. J Biol Rhythms 22:502-14 Full text
  8. Merlin C, Rosell G, Carot-Sans G, François MC, Bozzolan F, Pelletier J, Jacquin-Joly E, Guerrero A & Maïbèche-Coisne M (2007) Antennal esterase cDNAs from two pest moths, Spodoptera littoralis and Sesamia nonagrioides, potentially involved in odourant degradation. Insect Mol Biol 16:73-81 Full text
  9. de Santis F, François MC, Merlin C, Pelletier J, Maïbèche-Coisné M, Conti E & Jacquin-Joly E (2006) Molecular cloning and in Situ expression patterns of two new pheromone-binding proteins from the corn stemborer Sesamia nonagrioides. J Chem Ecol 32:1703-17 Full text
  10. Merlin C, François MC, Queguiner I, Maïbèche-Coisné M & Jacquin-Joly E (2006) Evidence for a putative antennal clock in Mamestra brassicae: molecular cloning and characterization of two clock genes--period and cryptochrome-- in antennae. Insect Mol Biol 15:137-45 Full text

 Current Genetics Students:

  Samantha Iiams

Research Interests:

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Genetics:

Molecular genetics and genomics of circadian clocks and monarch butterfly migration