Tera’s work focuses on the coevolution of microbes and hosts at the molecular level. All animals harbor a myriad of microorganisms that can have drastic effects on host physiology. These microbial influences can significantly alter host evolution at the same time that adaptation to the host environment can shape the evolution of microbes. Tera seeks to reconstruct the molecular events in the dynamic landscape of host-microbe interactions within Drosophila melanogaster and its sister species. She is interested in how host-microbe interactions escape from evolutionary arms races to transit the spectrum from parasitism to symbiosis. Additionally, Tera works to uncover the mechanisms that hosts use to recognize and regulate their native microbiota and how those genes and pathways evolve over time.
Tera’s interest in biology stems back to her childhood in Illinois, where she enjoyed reading books, collecting insects, watching nature documentaries, and dreaming about the day when she could become a biologist. During her undergraduate years at Oberlin College, she pursued a diversity of research projects, from the biogeochemistry of deep marsh soils to the chemical ecology of birds. She then worked at the National Institutes of Health, focusing on a dramatic host-pathogen interaction— the sudden, inflammatory cell death caused by anthrax toxins. Tera decided to combine her interest in microbes with her love of evolution during her graduate work in Nicole King’s lab at UC Berkeley. Here, she studied the evolution of multicellularity in choanoflagellates, a group of microeukaryotes that are the closest relatives of animals. Following her discovery of the choanoflagellate sexual life cycle, Tera pioneered genetic screens in these new model organisms and discovered the first known gene that regulates choanoflagellate development. Her findings have implications for the origin of multicellularity in animals and also have opened up choanoflagellates to mechanistic studies for the first time.
Levin, T. C., Greaney, A. J., Wetzel, L., and King, N. (2014) The rosetteless gene controls development in the choanoflagellate S. rosetta. eLife. 10.7554/eLife.04070
Levin, T. C. and King, N. (2013) Evidence for sex and recombination in the choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta. Current Biology. 23 (21): 2176-2180.
Dayel, M. J., Alegado, R. A., Fairclough, S. R., Levin, T. C., Nichols, S. A., McDonald, K., and King, N. (2011) Cell differentiation and intercellular interactions in the colony-forming choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta. Developmental Biology. 357: 73-82.
Levin, T. C. , Glazer, A. M., Pachter, L., Brem, R. B., Eisen, M. B. (2010) Exploring the genetic basis of variation in gene predictions with a synthetic association study. PLoS ONE. 5(7): e11645.
Whelan, R. J., Levin, T. C., Owen, J. C., Garvin, M. C. (2010) Short-chain carboxylic acids from gray catbird (Dumatella carolinensis) uropygial secretions vary with testosterone levels and photoperiod. Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol 156(3):183-8.
Levin, T. C., Wickliffe, K. E., Leppla, S. H., Moayeri, M. (2008) Heat shock inhibits caspase-1 activity while also preventing its inflammasome-mediated activation by anthrax lethal toxin. Cell Microbiol. 10 (12):2434-46.