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Wayne Potts


Ph.D. University of Washington

Graduate Program Membership:

Office/Building: ASB 580A
Phone: 801-585-9677; 801-585-9678
Potts Lab:

Research Statement

Various histocompatibility genes confer susceptibility to almost all infectious and autoimmune diseases in mammals (and other vertebrates). Why hasn't evolution by natural selection eliminated these bad genes? We are conducting experiments designed to elucidate which evolutionary processes are responsible for maintaining the unprecedented genetic diversity of histocompatibility (MHC) genes. To address these questions we utilize interdisciplinary approaches involving immunology, host-parasite coevolution, genetics, behavior, sexual selection and kin selection. Our unique approach includes examining components of fitness of rodents in seminatural conditions, a methodology that has proven to be an extremely sensitive assay for exploring phenotypes that are largely undetectable by other methods. The sensitive nature of our fitness assays has proven highly successful in demonstrating adverse effects on mammalian health and performance from suspected toxins, mutations and other treatments.

Research Interests

General Interests
Specific Interests
  • Host-parasite coevolution
  • Immunogenetic
  • Disease ecology
  • Social behavior

Selected Publications

  • 2021 - Middlebrook EA, Stark DL, Cornwall DH, Kubinak JL, Potts WK Deep sequencing of MHC-adapted viral lines reveals complex recombinational exchanges with endogenous retroviruses leading to high-frequency variants. Frontiers in Genetics. 12:716623. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.716623
  • 2020 - Cauceglia JW, Nelson AC, Rubinstein ND, Kukreja S, Sasso LN, Beaufort JA, Rando OJ, Potts WK. Transitions in paternal social status predict patterns of offspring growth and metabolic transcription. Molecular Ecology. Feb;29(3):624-638. doi: 10.1111/mec.15346. Epub 2020 Jan 19. PMID: 31885115.
  • 2018 - Cornwall D.H., Kubinak J.L., Zachary E., Stark D.L., Seipel D., Potts W.K. Experimental manipulation of population-level MHC diversity controls pathogen virulence evolution in Mus musculus. J Evol Biol. 31:314-322. doi: 10.1111/jeb.13225. Epub 2018 Jan 12. PMID: 29266576
  • 2015 - Kubinak, J.L., W. Z. Stephens, R. Soto, C. Petersen, T. Chiaro, L.G., R. Bell, N.J. Ajami, J.F. Petrosino, L. Morrison, W.K. Potts, P.E. Jensen, R.M. O’Connell1 & J.L. Round. MHC variation sculpts individualized microbial communities that control enteric infection. Nature Communications. 6:8642. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9642. PMID:26494419
  • 2015 - Ruff, J.S., Saffarini, R.B., Ramoz, L.L., Morrison, L.C., Baker, S., Laverty, S.M., Tvrdik, P. & Potts, W.K. Fitness assays reveal incomplete functional redundancy of the HoxA1 and HoxB1 paralogs of mice. Genetics 201: 727-736. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.178079
  • 2015 - Gaukler, S.M., J.S. Ruff, T. Galland, K.A. Kandaris, T.K. Underwood, N.M. Liu, E.L.Young, L.C. Morrison, G.S. Yost, W.K. Potts. Low-dose paroxetine exposure causes lifetime declines in male mouse body weight, reproduction and competitive ability as measured by the novel organismal performance assay. Neurotoxicology and teratology. 47:46-53. doi: 10.1016/
  • 2014 - Kubinak, J.L., Douglas H. Cornwall, Frederick R. Adler, Kim J. Hasenkrug and W.K. Potts. Serial infection of diverse host (Mus) genotypes rapidly impedes pathogen fitness and virulence. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 282:1798:20141568. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1568
  • 2013 - Nelson, A.C., J. W. Cauceglia, S.D. Merkley, N.A. Youngson, A.J. Oler, R.J. Nelson, B.R. Cairns, E.Whitelaw, W.K. Potts. Reintroducing domesticated wild mice to sociality induces adaptive transgenerational effects on MUP expression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 110:19848–19853. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1310427110
  • 2013 - Ruff, J.S., A. Suchy, S. Hugentobler, M. Sosa, B. Schwartz, S.H. Gieng, M. Shigenaga, W.K. Potts. Human-relevant levels of fructose decrease mouse competitive ability, survival and fitness. Nature Communications. 4:2245 doi: 10.1038/ncomms3245.
  • 2012 - Kubinak, J.L., J.S. Ruff, C.W. Hyzer, P.R. Slev, and W.K. Potts. Experimental viral evolution to specific host MHC genotypes reveals fitness and virulence tradeoffs in alternative MHC types. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 28;109(9):3422-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1112633109. (Cover photo article, 28 Feb. issue)

Courses Taught

  • Biol 3125: Molecular Tools for Evol.
  • Biol 3430 Behavior Ecology
  • Biol 1620 Fundamentals of Biology II