Epigenetic Regulation of Social Brain

About Our Research

The Gospocic group studies how epigenetic pathways and gene expression regulate brain plasticity in the context of social behavior and aging. The work in our lab will address two major questions: First, how do social interactions (social bonding, aggression and social defeat) induce epigenetic changes and long-lasting behavioral phenotypes? Second, what are the key epigenetic mechanisms driving aging and rejuvenation in social contexts?

For this purpose, we are studying a unique ant species Harpegnathos saltator in which an adult worker can transition into a queen, resulting in drastic physiological and behavioral changes within a very short time span. This represents one of the most impressive examples of organismal plasticity and makes H. saltator an unparalleled, yet largely unexplored, epigenetic model.

We take a multidisciplinary approach and combine functional genomics, biochemistry, and behavioral assays in H. saltator, as well as the conventional Drosophila and mouse models to expedite genetic screening and provide evolutionary context to identified epigenetic pathways.

Meet the Principal Investigator

Janko Gospocic, Ph.D.

Janko Gospocic, Ph.D.

Dr. Janko Gospocic is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry with a secondary appointment at the Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences. He grew up in Croatia and received a M.S. in Molecular Biology at the University of Zagreb. He then received a Ph.D. in developmental biology and genetics at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) under the mentorship of Professor Nadia Rosenthal. Dr. Gospocic then conducted his postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in the lab of Dr. Roberto Bonasio.

Selected Publications

Gospocic J, Glastad K, Sheng L, Shields EJ, Berger SL, Bonasio R. Kr-h1 maintains distinct neurotranscriptomes in response to socially regulated hormones. Cell 2021 Oct 28; S0092-8674(21)01180-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.10.006. [OA]

Gospocic J, Shields EJ, Glastad KM, Lin Y, Penick CA, Yan H, Mikheyev AS, Linksvayer TA, Garcia BA, Berger SL, Liebig J, Reinberg D, Bonasio R. The Neuropeptide Corazonin Controls Social Behavior and Caste Identity in Ants. Cell. 2017 Aug 10;170(4):748-759.e12. [OA]

Join Us

There are often open positions available in the lab. If you are interested in joining the group, please contact Dr. Gospocic. The successful candidates will have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects using an emerging epigenetic model studying the role of epigenetic modifications in various biological processes and diseases.

Meet the Team

Close-up of ants.
Artistic view of an ant. Copy - Gospocic Lab
Close-up of ants.