Nancy A. Moran

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Nancy A. Moran
Born(1954-12-21)December 21, 1954
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Scientific career
FieldsEvolutionary biology

Nancy A. Moran (born December 21, 1954, Dallas, Texas) is an American evolutionary biologist, University of Texas Leslie Surginer Endowed Professor, and co-founder of the Yale Microbial Diversity Institute.[1][2]

Moran began her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas in 1972.[1] She started out as an art major, and later switched to philosophy. For an elective requirement she took an introduction to biology course. From this, she became interested in biology. During her senior year at college, she undertook an honours project, and tried something in biology. The class was on animal behaviour, and provided her with an opportunity to experience independent research, and solidified her interest in evolution and behaviour.[1] She applied to graduate school and ended up at the University of Michigan, where she studied under W.D. Hamilton and Richard D. Alexander.

Moran graduated from the University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in biology in 1976, and from University of Michigan with a Ph.D. in zoology in 1982. In 1984, she was a National Academy of Sciences Fellow in the Institute of Entomology in Czechoslovakia. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Northern Arizona University from 1984-1986.[3] She was a research professor at the University of Arizona from 1986-2010 and at Yale University from 2010-2013. At Yale University, she was a William H. Fleming endowned professor.[3] Her research has focused on the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum and its bacterial symbionts.[4] In 2013, she returned to the University of Texas at Austin, where she continues to conduct research on bacterial symbionts in aphids, bees, and other insect species. She has also expanded the scale of her research to bacterial evolution as a whole. She believes that a good understanding of genetic drift and random chance could prevent misunderstandings surrounding evolution.[1] Her current research goal focuses on complexity in life-histories and symbiosis between hosts and microbes.[3]


Nancy Moran researches microbiota environments in insects. Her research in Drosophila gut microbiomes demonstrated that, unlike other species, Drosophila's microbiome content was ingested with food and varied widely between individuals and populations.[5] Her research provides information on this model organism and the bacteria it possesses which affects research done with Drosophila.[5] The research demonstrated that gut microbiota in Drosophila used as model organisms is more representative of the food they eat as opposed to the wild-type Drosophila gut microbiota. The conclusion of the research stressed the importance of including fieldwork into microbiota research to better understand the environment-driven gut microbiota makeup.[5]

She is currently researching honey bees and their interaction with gut microbiota. Her research found that microbiota interact with host metabolism and hormone signaling.[6] This research showed that microbiota in social bees degrade plant polymers that the organisms consumes in their diet.[6] The research compared the bee's microbiome to other species and determined it can model host-microbiota interactions due to similarities such as types of bacteria.[6] Her work with eusocial corbiculate bees demonstrates that different phylogenies within this class of bees share a common ancestor for their gut microbiota independent of geography or sympatry.[7] Corbiculate bees include honey bees, bumble bees, and stingless bees.[7] She completed research on the symbiotic relationship between host insects and their gut microbiota and her research team has found that the honey bee's exposure to antibiotics disrupts the microbiota, which regulates weight and hormone signaling,[6] and increases mortality rates.[8] The data collected demonstrates the bee's susceptibility to fatal pathogens after antibiotic exposure.[8]

Her past research also includes genomic evolution of symbiotic bacteria. This research sequenced genes of symbionts in invertebrate animals and compared the sequences to non-symbiont bacteria to determine the gene characteristics that differentiate the different bacteria.[9] She continued this research more recently to demonstrate the relatively fast evolution of endosymbiotic bacteria and the accumulation of mutations through Muller's ratchet. The research demonstrated that Muller's ratchet was the cause for the more rapid evolution in the asexual population and the research uncovered a mutational bias in the reproduction of symbionts.[10]

Notable awards and honors[edit]

The Yale Microbial Diversity Institute, which was co-founded by Nancy Moran, is an interdisciplinary research program at Yale University. The researchers involved in the Institute study microbial ecology, evolution, cell physiology, cell biology, and pathogenesis. The research has contributed to medical and health discoveries, oil-spill clean ups, and biological advancements.[11] The most recent research from the Institute includes using Bacteroides, a type of gram-negative bacteria, as an indication of the microbiota environment in the gut.[12] The microbiota environment, difficult to determine due to the diversity and complexity of the system, is governed by Bacteriodes and therefore many insights into the environment can be provided through the determination of the Bacteriodes present.[13]

In 2014, Moran won her most recent award, the Jim Tiedje award, an award through the International Society for Microbial Ecology honoring the contributions of ecologists across the world.[14] The award noted her research on the symbiotic relationship between hosts and microbiota and their effects on microbiology diversity and host health.[15]

Moran has won a number of other awards including:[3]

  • 1988 American Society of Naturalists President's Award
  • 1997 MacArthur Fellows Program
  • 2001 University of Arizona Regents' Professor
  • 2004 Member of the American Academy of Microbiology
  • 2004 Member of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2006 Galileo Circle Faculty Fellow, College of Science, University of Arizona
  • 2006 Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2007 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2008 University of Arizona Amumni Association Extraordinary Faculty Award
  • 2010 International Prize for Biology
  • 2012 Member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering
  • 2014 James Tiedje Award for lifetime contribution in Microbial Ecology (International Society for Microbial Ecology)



  1. ^ a b c d Zagorski, N. (2005). "Profile of Nancy A. Moran". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (47): 16916–16918. doi:10.1073/pnas.0508498102. PMC 1288003. PMID 16286644.
  2. ^ "Moran Lab • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology • Yale University". Archived from the original on 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2011-07-28.
  3. ^ a b c d "Nancy Moran University of Texas at Austin". Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  4. ^ "Carrots Share Trait With Tiny Pea Aphid", The New York Times, HENRY FOUNTAIN, May 3, 2010
  5. ^ a b c Martinson, Vincent G.; Carpinteyro-Ponce, Javier; Moran, Nancy A.; Markow, Therese A. (2017-09-22). "A distinctive and host-restricted gut microbiota in populations of a cactophilic Drosophila species". Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 83: e01551–17. doi:10.1128/AEM.01551-17. ISSN 1098-5336. PMC 5691420. PMID 28939605.
  6. ^ a b c d Zheng, Hao; Powell, J. Elijah; Steele, Margaret I.; Dietrich, Carsten; Moran, Nancy A. (2017-05-02). "Honeybee gut microbiota promotes host weight gain via bacterial metabolism and hormonal signaling". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114 (18): 4775–4780. doi:10.1073/pnas.1701819114. ISSN 1091-6490. PMC 5422775. PMID 28420790.
  7. ^ a b Kwong, Waldan K.; Medina, Luis A.; Koch, Hauke; Sing, Kong-Wah; Soh, Eunice Jia Yu; Ascher, John S.; Jaffé, Rodolfo; Moran, Nancy A. (March 2017). "Dynamic microbiome evolution in social bees". Science Advances. 3 (3): e1600513. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1600513. ISSN 2375-2548. PMC 5371421. PMID 28435856.
  8. ^ a b Raymann, Kasie; Shaffer, Zack; Moran, Nancy A. (March 2017). "Antibiotic exposure perturbs the gut microbiota and elevates mortality in honeybees". PLOS Biology. 15 (3): e2001861. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2001861. ISSN 1545-7885. PMC 5349420. PMID 28291793.
  9. ^ Bennett, Gordon M.; McCutcheon, John P.; MacDonald, Bradon R.; Romanovicz, Dwight; Moran, Nancy A. (2014-10-31). "Differential Genome Evolution Between Companion Symbionts in an Insect-Bacterial Symbiosis". mBio. 5 (5): e01697–14. doi:10.1128/mBio.01697-14. ISSN 2150-7511. PMC 4196230. PMID 25271287.
  10. ^ Moran, N. A. (1996-04-02). "Accelerated evolution and Muller's rachet in endosymbiotic bacteria". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 93 (7): 2873–2878. doi:10.1073/pnas.93.7.2873. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 39726. PMID 8610134.
  11. ^ "Microbial Sciences Institute". Yale West Campus. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  12. ^ Xu, Jian; Bjursell, Magnus K.; Himrod, Jason; Deng, Su; Carmichael, Lynn K.; Chiang, Herbert C.; Hooper, Lora V.; Gordon, Jeffrey I. (2003-03-28). "A Genomic View of the Human-Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron Symbiosis". Science. 299 (5615): 2074–2076. doi:10.1126/science.1080029. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 12663928.
  13. ^ Wexler, Aaron G.; Goodman, Andrew L. (May 2017). "An insider's perspective: Bacteroides as a window into the microbiome". Nature Microbiology. 2 (5): 17026. doi:10.1038/nmicrobiol.2017.26. ISSN 2058-5276.
  14. ^ "ISME". Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  15. ^ "Biology Professor Nancy Moran Receives Lifetime Contribution Award". Retrieved 2017-11-24.

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