Julie Horvath

Head, Genomics & Microbiology Research Lab

11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601


  • Ph.D. in Human Genetics, Case Western Reserve University, 2004
  • B.S. in Zoology (Concentration in Genetics), Michigan State University, 1996


  • Jointly Appointed Research Associate Professor, Biology Department, North Carolina Central University
  • Adjunct Assistant Research Professor, Evolutionary Anthropology Department, Duke University

Research Interests

Dr. Horvath is a comparative evolutionary genomicist interested in understanding the evolutionary forces that have shaped primate genomes and that impact health and disease. Genetic and genomic comparisons between humans and our closest relatives, the primates, are crucial for understanding our own evolution and unique characteristics. The foundation of her research is based on species relationships, or phylogenies, which she first established for lemurs (Horavth et al. 2008), and more recently, for all primates (Perelman et al. 2011). These species relationships are applied to many of her research questions. Many of her research projects investigate the connection between genotype (DNA sequence) and phenotype (traits and characteristics) that make flora and fauna unique.

Dr. Horvath's comparative genomic foundation provides an exciting way to integrate research from multiple disciplines since genomic analyses can be applied to many different research questions. In collaboration with Michael Platt, Lauren Brent, and Pate Skene at Duke University, Karli Watson of University of Colorado as well as Laurie Santos at Yale and members of the Caribbean Primate Research Center, she is incorporating genetic and genomic techniques with behavioral and neuroscientific methods to elucidate genotype-phenotype associations in rhesus macaques. This work was originally funded through an NIH stimulus grant and is now continued with a 5-year NIH research grant. This collaborative project is identifying macaque genotypes that are associated with social behavior heterogeneity and have similarities to human autism spectrum disorders. The population of rhesus macaques lives on the small island of Cayo Santiago, off the coast of Puerto Rico, and offers many future opportunities to combine field-based research with genomic methods to study macaque behavior and ecology.

In collaboration with Julie Urban, Sarah Council, and Rob Dunn’s group at NC State University, she has begun an armpit biodiversity project to identify the microbes that live under primate armpits. This entails a sample swab under the armpits that is genetically analyzed by sequencing small regions of the genomes of the microbes that live there. This initiated as an exploratory project to identify armpit microbes relying on citizen scientists to collect some of the human data. Since animal “fragrance” is partially determined by what is under the armpit, and it is the microbes living on skin that produce body odor, this has implications for mate choice and has exciting evolutionary implications. Her team recently swabbed armpits from a diversity of non-human primates to compare to humans. Citizen scientists can help explore some of the factors affecting microbe biodiversity, which may be dictated by the deodorant or antiperspirant used, geographic location and the type of soap and water used for bathing. These studies have implications for our health and well being, as well as our understanding of what constitutes a “healthy” skin microbiome.

Meet your microbes!
We have three projects in various stages of analysis. Check out photos of people's armpit microbes here: http://armpits.yourwildlife.org/plate-gallery/

Select Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • Council, S.E., Savage, A.M., Urban, J.M., Ehlers, M.E., Skene, J.H.P., Platt, M., Dunn, R.R., Horvath, J.E. (2016) Diversity and evolution of the primate skin microbiome. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B 283: 1822.
  • Urban, J.M., Fergus, D.J., Savage, A.M., Ehlers, M.E., Menninger, H.L., Dunn, R.R., Horvath, J.E. (2016) The effect of habitual antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiome. PeerJ 4:e1605
  • Horvath, J.E., Ramachandran, G.L., Fedrigo, O., Nielsen, W.J., Babbitt, C.C., St. Clair, E.M., Pfefferle, L.W., Jernvall, J., Wray, G.A., Wall, C.E. (2014) Genetic comparisons yield insight into the evolution of enamel thickness during human evolution. Journal of Human Evolution. 73: 75-87.
  • Brent, L.J.N, Heilbronner, S.R., Horvath, J.E., Gonzalez-Martinez, J., Ruiz-Lambides, A., Robinson, A.G., Skene, J.H.P., Platt, M.L. (2013). Genetic origins of social networks in rhesus macaques. Sci Rep. 3, 1042.
  • Horvath, J.E., Sheedy, C.B., Merrett, S.L., Diallo, A.B., Swofford, D.L., NISC Comparative Sequencing Program, Green, E.D., Willard, H.F. (2011). Comparative analysis of the primate X inactivation center region and reconstruction of the ancestral primate XIST locus. Genome Res. 21: 850-62.
  • Perelman, P., Johnson, W., Roos, C., Seuanez, H.N., Horvath, J.E., Moreira, M.A.M., Kessing, B., Pontius, J., Roelke, M., Rumpler, Y. et al. (2011). A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates. PLoS Genet. 7: e1001342.
  • Babbitt, C.C., Fedrigo, O., Pfefferle, A.D., Boyle, A.P., Horvath, J.E., Furey, T.S., Wray, G.A. (2010). Both noncoding and protein-coding RNAs contribute to gene expression evolution in the primate brain. Genome Biol. and Evol. 2: 67-79.
  • Horvath, J.E., Weisrock, D.W., Embry, S.L., Fiorentino, I., Balhoff, J.P., Kappeler, P., Wray, G.A., Willard, H.F., Yoder, A.D. (2008). Development and application of a phylogenomic toolkit: resolving the evolutionary history of Madagascar’s lemurs. Genome Res. 18: 489-499.
  • Horvath, J.E., Willard, H.F. (2007). Primate comparative genomics: lemur biology and evolution. Trends Genet. 23: 173-82.
  • Horvath J.E.*, She X.*, Jiang Z., Liu G., Furey T.S., Christ L., Clark R., Graves T., Gulden C.L., Alkan C., Bailey J.A., Sahinalp C., Rocchi M., Haussler D., Wilson R.K., Miller W., Schwartz S., Eichler E.E. (2004). The structure and evolution of centromeric transition regions within the human genome. Nature 430: 857-64. *contributed equally

Fields of Research