H. Frederik Nijhout

John Franklin Crowell Professor of Biology

322 Bio Sci Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Duke Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0325
(919) 684-2793
Fred Nijhout is broadly interested in developmental physiology and in the interactions between development and evolution. He has several lines of research ongoing in his laboratory that on the surface may look independent from one another, but all share a conceptual interest in understanding how complex traits arise through, and are affected by, the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. 1) The control of polyphenic development in insects. This work attempts to understand how the insect developmental hormones, ecdysone and juvenile hormone, act to control alternative developmental pathways within a single individual. His studies and those of his students have dealt with the control of sequential polyphenism in metamorphosis, of alternate polyphenisms in caste determination of social insects and the many seasonal forms of insects. 2) The regulation of organ and body size in insects. Ongoing research deals with the mechanism by which insects asses their body size and stop growing when they have achieved a characteristic size. Other studies deal with the control of growth and size of imaginal disks. This work is revealing that the control of body and organ size does not reside in any specific cellular or molecular mechanism but that it is a systems property in which cellular, physiological and environmental signals all contribute in inextricable ways to produce the final phenotype. 3) The development and evolution of color patterns in Lepidoptera. Ongoing research attempts to elucidate the evolution of mimicry using genetic and genomic approaches. 4) The development, genetics and evolution of complex traits. Complex traits are those whose variation is affected by many genes and environmental factors and whose inheritance does not follow Mendel’s laws. In practice this involves understanding how genetic and developmental networks operate when there is allelic variation in their genes. This work attempts to reconstruct complex traits through mathematical models of the genetic and developmental processes by which they originate, and uses these models to study the effects of mutation and selection. Currently metabolic networks (e.g. folate metabolism) are being used to develop a deeper understanding of the functional relationships between genetic variation and trait variation, and of the mechanisms by which genetic and environmental variables interact to produce phenotypes. More on web page: http://www.biology.duke.edu/nijhout/


  • Ph.D., Harvard University 1974

  • M.A., Harvard University 1972

  • B.S., University of Notre Dame 1970

Sekimura, T, Nijhout, HF, Sekimura, T, and Nijhout, HF. Diversity and evolution of butterfly wing patterns: An integrative approachPreface (PublishedPublished). August 29, 2017. Full Text

Nijhout, HF. Insect Hormones. Princeton University Press, 1998.

Nijhout, HF. The development and evolution of butterfly wing patterns. Smithsonian Inst Pr, 1991.

Nijhout, HF. "The common developmental origin of eyespots and parafocal elements and a new model mechanism for color pattern formation." In Diversity and Evolution of Butterfly Wing Patterns: An Integrative Approach, 3-19. August 29, 2017. Full Text

Reed, MC, Best, J, and Nijhout, HF. "Mathematical models of neuromodulation and implications for neurology and psychiatry (Accepted)." In Computational Neurology and Psychiatry,edited by P Erdi, B Bhattacharya, and A Cochran. New York: Springer, 2017. (Chapter)

Reed, MC, Nijhout, HF, and Kurtz, T. "Mathematical modeling of cell metabolism." In Encyclopedia of Applied and Computational Mathematics,edited by B Engquist. New York: Springer, 2016. (Chapter)

Reed, MC, Best, J, Nijhout, HF, and Oakley, G. "Mathematical models: Interactions between serotonion and dopamine in Parkinson's disease." In Etiology and Pathophysiology of Parkinson's Disease,edited by AQ Rana. InTech Pub., 2011. (Chapter)

Reed, MC, Nijhout, HF, and Ulrich, C. "Mathematical Models of One-Carbon Metabolism." In Vitamins and Hormones, Volume 79,edited by G Litvack, 42-85. Amsterdam NE: Elsevier, 2008. (Chapter)

Nijhout, HF, and McKenna, KZ. "Wing morphogenesis in Lepidoptera." Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (April 26, 2018). (Review) Full Text

Duncan, W, Best, J, Golubitsky, M, Nijhout, HF, and Reed, M. "Homeostasis despite instability." Mathematical biosciences 300 (March 26, 2018): 130-137. Full Text

Nijhout, HF, Laub, E, and Grunert, LW. "Hormonal control of growth in the wing imaginal disks of Junonia coenia: the relative contributions of insulin and ecdysone." Development (Cambridge, England) 145, no. 6 (March 2018). Full Text

Nijhout, HF, and McKenna, KZ. "The distinct roles of insulin signaling in polyphenic development." Current opinion in insect science 25 (February 2018): 58-64. (Review) Full Text

Gawne, R, McKenna, KZ, and Nijhout, HF. "Unmodern Synthesis: Developmental Hierarchies and the Origin of Phenotypes." BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology 40, no. 1 (January 2018). (Review) Full Text

Best, J, Nijhout, HF, Samaranayake, S, Hashemi, P, and Reed, M. "A mathematical model for histamine synthesis, release, and control in varicosities." Theoretical biology & medical modelling 14, no. 1 (December 12, 2017): 24-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Parens, R, Nijhout, HF, Morales, A, Xavier Costa, F, and Bar-Yam, Y. "A Possible Link Between Pyriproxyfen and Microcephaly." PLoS currents 9 (November 27, 2017). Full Text

Reed, M, Best, J, Golubitsky, M, Stewart, I, and Nijhout, HF. "Analysis of Homeostatic Mechanisms in Biochemical Networks." Bulletin of mathematical biology 79, no. 11 (November 2017): 2534-2557. Full Text

Nijhout, HF, Sadre-Marandi, F, Best, J, and Reed, MC. "Systems Biology of Phenotypic Robustness and Plasticity." Integrative and comparative biology 57, no. 2 (August 2017): 171-184. Full Text Open Access Copy

Reed, MC, Best, J, and Nijhout, HF. "Mathematical models of neuromodulation and implications for neurology and psychiatry (Accepted)." Edited by P Erdi, B Battacharya, and A Cochran. (2017).


Mckenna, KZ, and Nijhout, HF. "The impact of protein malnutrition on growth and scaling in the rat Rattus norvegicus." Annual Meeting of the Society-for-Integrative-and-Comparative-Biology (SICB). San Francisco, CA. January 3, 2018 - January 7, 2018.: OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, March 1, 2018.

Rios-Avila, L, Nijhout, HF, Reed, MC, Sitren, HS, and Gregory, JF. "Mathematical model gives insights into vitamin B6 and kynurenine metabolism." April 2012.