E. Josie Clowney
Assistant Professor, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
B.S., University of Michigan
Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Josie Clowney has been designated the Milton E. Cassel Scholar for the 2019 class of Rita Allen Foundation Scholars. This special award honors the memory of a longtime President of the Rita Allen Foundation who passed away in 2004.
Our bodies make direct contact with environment-derived molecules including volatiles, dietary nutrients, and microbial components. The evolutionary problem of detecting and responding to extraordinarily diverse exogenous compounds has been solved similarly in chemosensory, digestive, and immune systems, by the evolution of large families of cell surface and secreted proteins whose members each have limited binding affinities. The Clowney lab studies how these large gene families evolved; how they are coordinately regulated across cells; and, in the chemosensory system, how signals flowing through chemosensory receptors can be meaningfully interpreted to allow suitable behavioral responses. We are particularly interested in understanding the distinct biological mechanisms that allow reflexive responses to evolutionarily predicted stimuli versus flexible responses to arbitrary or evolutionarily unpredicted stimuli.