H. Frederik Nijhout

John Franklin Crowell Distinguished 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 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

Nijhout, H Frederik. Insect Hormones. Princeton University Press, 1998.

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

Suzuki, Y., K. Z. McKenna, and H Frederik Nijhout. “Regulation of phenotypic plasticity from the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology.” In Phenotypic Switching Implications in Biology and Medicine, edited by H. Levine, M. K. Jolly, and V. Nanjundiah, 403–403. Academic Press, 2020.

Nijhout, H. F. “Pattern and process.” In Pattern Formation in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 1–12, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1201/9780429493362. Full Text

Nijhout, H. F. “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, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-4956-9_1. Full Text

Reed, M. C., J. Best, and H. F. Nijhout. “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.

Reed, M. C., H. F. Nijhout, and T. Kurtz. “Mathematical modeling of cell metabolism.” In Encyclopedia of Applied and Computational Mathematics, edited by B. Engquist. New York: Springer, 2016.

Reed, M. C., J. Best, H. F. Nijhout, and G. Oakley. “Mathematical models: Interactions between serotonion and dopamine in Parkinson's disease.” In Etiology and Pathophysiology of Parkinson’s Disease, edited by A. Q. Rana. InTech Pub., 2011.

Reed, M. C., H. F. Nijhout, and C. Ulrich. “Mathematical Models of One-Carbon Metabolism.” In Vitamins and Hormones, Volume 79, edited by G. Litvack, 42–85. Amsterdam NE: Elsevier, 2008.

He, Lorrie L., Sara H. Shin, Zhou Wang, Isabelle Yuan, Ruthie Weschler, Allison Chiou, Takashi Koyama, H Frederik Nijhout, and Yuichiro Suzuki. “Mechanism of threshold size assessment: Metamorphosis is triggered by the TGF-beta/Activin ligand Myoglianin.Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 126 (November 2020): 103452. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2020.103452. Full Text

Best, Janet, William Duncan, Farrah Sadre-Marandi, Parastoo Hashemi, H Frederik Nijhout, and Michael Reed. “Autoreceptor control of serotonin dynamics.Bmc Neuroscience 21, no. 1 (September 23, 2020): 40. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12868-020-00587-z. Full Text

Gawne, R., and H. F. Nijhout. “The Arctiid Archetype: A New Lepidopteran Groundplan.” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 8 (June 10, 2020). https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2020.00175. Full Text

McKenna, K. Z., A. M. Kudla, and H. F. Nijhout. “Anterior–Posterior Patterning in Lepidopteran Wings.” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 8 (June 3, 2020). https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2020.00146. Full Text

Abdalla, Aya, Alyssa West, Yunju Jin, Rachel A. Saylor, Beidi Qiang, Edsel Peña, David J. Linden, et al. “Fast serotonin voltammetry as a versatile tool for mapping dynamic tissue architecture: I. Responses at carbon fibers describe local tissue physiology.Journal of Neurochemistry 153, no. 1 (April 2020): 33–50. https://doi.org/10.1111/jnc.14854. Full Text

Lawley, Sean D., Michael C. Reed, and H Frederik Nijhout. “Spiracular fluttering increases oxygen uptake.Plos One 15, no. 5 (January 2020): e0232450. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232450. Full Text

Nijhout, H Frederik. “The multistep morphing of beetle horns.Science (New York, N.Y.) 366, no. 6468 (November 2019): 946–47. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaz9010. Full Text

Nijhout, H Frederik, and Kenneth Z. McKenna. “Allometry, Scaling, and Ontogeny of Form-An Introduction to the Symposium.Integrative and Comparative Biology 59, no. 5 (November 2019): 1275–80. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icz143. Full Text

Nijhout, H Frederik, Janet A. Best, and Michael C. Reed. “Systems biology of robustness and homeostatic mechanisms.Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Systems Biology and Medicine 11, no. 3 (May 2019): e1440. https://doi.org/10.1002/wsbm.1440. Full Text

Burg, Karin R. L. van der, James J. Lewis, Arnaud Martin, H Frederik Nijhout, Charles G. Danko, and Robert D. Reed. “Contrasting Roles of Transcription Factors Spineless and EcR in the Highly Dynamic Chromatin Landscape of Butterfly Wing Metamorphosis.Cell Reports 27, no. 4 (April 2019): 1027-1038.e3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.03.092. Full Text


McKenna, Kenneth Z., Della Tao, and H Frederik Nijhout. “Exploring the Role of Insulin Signaling in Relative Growth: A Case Study on Wing-Body Scaling in Lepidoptera.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 59:1324–37, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icz080. Full Text

Palmer, Rayleigh, Kenneth Z. McKenna, and H. F. Nijhout. “Morphological Murals: The Scaling and Allometry of Butterfly Wing Patterns.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 59:1281–89, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icz123. Full Text

Mckenna, K. Z., and H. F. Nijhout. “The impact of protein malnutrition on growth and scaling in the rat Rattus norvegicus.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 58:E151–E151. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2018.

Nijhout, H Frederik, and Kenneth Z. McKenna. “The Origin of Novelty Through the Evolution of Scaling Relationships.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57:1322–33, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icx049. Full Text

Gawne, R., and H. F. Nijhout. “Phenotypic variation and aposematic signaling in an arctiid moth (Utetheisa ornatrix).” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57:E269–E269. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2017.

Mckenna, K. Z., and H. F. Nijhout. “Allometry and Reaction Norms: Wing-Body Scaling in Manduca sexta.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57:E110–E110. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2017.

Thanacoody, HK Ruben, H Fred Nijhout, Mike C. Reed, and Simon Thomas. “Mathematical modeling of the effect of different intravenous acetylcysteine regimens on hepatic glutathione regeneration and hepatocyte death following simulated acetaminophen overdose.” In Clinical Toxicology, 55:753–753. TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2017.

Thanacoody, HK Ruben, H Fred Nijhout, Mike C. Reed, and Simon Thomas. “Mathematical modeling of the effect of late administration of a novel acetylcysteine regimen based on the SNAP trial on hepatic glutathione regeneration and hepatocyte death following simulated acetaminophen overdose.” In Clinical Toxicology, 55:753–54. TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2017.

Nijhout, H. F., and M. C. Reed. “Homeostasis and dynamic stability of the phenotype: Implications for understanding the nature and evolution of robustness and plasticity.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 54:E153–E153. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2014.

Nijhout, H. F. “Phenotypic Plasticity and Allometry: New Models and Evolutionary Implications.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 52:E129–E129. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2012.