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Brian Metzger

Assistant Professor Of Biology

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Brian  Metzger


Evolution of gene expression and regulation; Origins and genetic basis of new molecular functions; Experimental evolution; Evolution of Saccharomyces yeast


Brian Metzger is an evolutionary biologist whose research focuses on dissecting the origins and evolution of new molecular functions, particularly those related to the evolution of gene expression and regulation. His work uses high-throughput approaches from molecular biology, phylogenetics, population genetics, and genomics to identify the genetic and molecular basis of regulatory differences between distantly related species. He then uses novel molecular and statistical tools to experimentally evolve historical changes in gene regulation within the laboratory. By ‘replaying the tape of life’ and placing these ancient regulatory changes within a framework of ‘what might have been’, Brian’s research determines not only the historical genetic basis for new molecular functions, but also the broader genetic mechanisms underlying how those functions emerged and have evolved.


B.S. in Genetics and Microbiology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009

Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 2015

Postdoc at the University of Chicago, 2016-2022

Selected Publications

Metzger, B. P. H., Park, Y., Thornton, J. W. (2023). Genetic architecture of transcription factor specificity: pairwise epistasis facilitates functional evolution in an ancient protein. In prep.

Xie, V. C.*, Pu, J.*, Metzger, B. P. H .*, Thornton, J. W., & Dickinson, B. C. (2021). Contingency and chance erase necessity in the experimental evolution of ancestral proteins. ELife , 10 , 1–34.

Metzger, B. P. H., & Wittkopp, P. J. (2019). Compensatory trans -regulatory alleles minimizing variation in TDH3 expression are common within Saccharomyces cerevisiae . Evolution Letters , 3 (5), 448–461.

Metzger, B. P. H., Wittkopp, P. J., & Coolon, Joseph. D. (2017). Evolutionary dynamics of regulatory changes underlying gene expression divergence among Saccharomyces species. Genome Biology and Evolution , 177 (4), 1987–1996.

Metzger, B. P. H. *, Yuan, D. C.*, Gruber, J. D., Duveau, F. D., & Wittkopp, P. J. (2015). Selection on noise constrains variation in a eukaryotic promoter. Nature , 521 , 344–347.

*Equal Contributions

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