Catherine (Katie) Peichel

Appointments and Affiliations

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Human Biology and Basic Sciences Divisions
University of Washington
College of Arts and Sciences
Biology Program
Affiliate Professor
Professional Headshot of Catherine  Peichel

Mailing Address

1100 Fairview Ave. N.
Mailstop C2-023
Seattle, Washington 98109-1024
United States


Phone: (206) 667-1628
Fax: (206) 667-6523


Ph.D., Princeton University, Molecular Biology, 1998.
B.A., University of California, Berkeley, Molecular and Cellular Biology, 1991.

Research Interests

What is the genetic basis of morphological and behavioral variation between species? How do these differences lead to the formation of new species? In order to address these questions experimentally, we have developed the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a new genetic system. Threespine sticklebacks have evolved an incredible diversity of morphologies and behaviors in freshwater populations in the last 10,000 years, and we have the ability to cross virtually any two diverse populations of sticklebacks using artificial fertilization in the lab. Therefore, they are an ideal system to determine the number of genetic changes that control morphological and behavioral differences between species, to map the location of these changes, and to ultimately find the DNA sequence changes responsible for evolutionary modifications in vertebrates. In my postdoctoral work with David Kingsley, we developed the first genetic linkage map for the threespine stickleback and have shown that we can use this map to define chromosomal regions underlying many variable skeletal traits in the stickleback.

One area of intensive study in threespine sticklebacks is reproductive behavior and mate choice. Reproductive isolation is seen between natural stickleback populations due to differences in male morphologies and behavior, and corresponding changes in female preferences for these male traits. Research in my laboratory uses a forward genetic approach of genome-wide linkage mapping to identify the genes controlling variable morphologies and behaviors related to reproduction and mate choice. By identifying genes that control these traits, we hope to define the molecular pathways underlying speciation.

Although reproductive isolation between threespine stickleback populations is mostly due to pre-zygotic barriers such as behavioral differences, post-zygotic isolation does exist between species of sticklebacks in the Gasterosteidae family. One potential source of this post-zygotic isolation is differences in the sex chromosomes of these species. We have found a diversity of sex chromosome systems within the stickleback family. One of these neo-sex chromosome systems is found in one population of threespine sticklebacks and harbors loci important for behavioral isolation between sympatric stickleback populations. These data suggest that sex chromosome turnover might play an important role in stickleback speciation. Ongoing work is focusing on the identification of the sex-determining gene in threespine sticklebacks, a detailed sequence analysis of the threespine stickleback Y chromosome region, and uncovering the evolutionary forces that have led to the diversity of sex chromosome systems found in sticklebacks.


American Society of Naturalists
Genetics Society of America
Society for the Study of Evolution

Honors and Awards

2002, Burroughs Wellcome Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences,

Previous Positions

1998-2002, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University, School of Medicine, Developmental Biology


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): Genetic and Neural Contributions to the Evolution of Schooling Behavior in Sticklebacks, 2012 to 2015.

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): The Genetics of Parallel Reproductive Isolation in Stickleback Species Pairs, 2010 to 2014.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): Genomic Basis of Vertebrate Diversity, 2007 to 2012.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): Evolution of Sex Determination in Sticklebacks, 2004 to 2009.


Recent Publications

Peichel CL, Marques DA.  2017.  The genetic and molecular architecture of phenotypic diversity in sticklebacks.. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences. 372(1713) Abstract
Cech JN, Peichel CL.  2015.  Identification of the centromeric repeat in the threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus).. Chromosome research : an international journal on the molecular, supramolecular and evolutionary aspects of chromosome biology. 23(4):767-79. Abstract