Dr. Yates' Stress Physiology Lab

Yates' Lab Group Picture

Research Interests

We study metabolic fetal programming related to maternal stress, placental insufficiency, and intrauterine growth restriction. In humans and companion animals, IUGR-born individuals (~10% of all US-born babies; ~25% worldwide) are at much greater risk for obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other metabolic disorders that shorten life expectancy and reduced quality of life. In food animals, IUGR leads to less efficient growth and poorer carcass quality, which reduces the financial sustainability of meat animal production.

Our lab utilizes pregnant sheep and rodents as physiological models for humans and ruminant livestock species. We have developed research techniques to allow us to measure fetal physiological responses to maternal stress factors in real-time over the last trimester of pregnancy. In addition, we can study glucose metabolism in live animals, primary tissue samples, and cells cultures. A large factor in metabolic homeostasis is proper skeletal muscle growth, and we have developed ex vivo and in vitro protocols for measuring functional capacity of muscle stem cells, as well as microscopy and immunoblot techniques for determining muscle fiber dynamics.

Our long-term research goal is to identify the developmental adaptations that occur in utero in response to maternal stressors and then use those findings to develop postnatal nutritional/pharmacological intervention strategies for IUGR-born offspring.

Our approach encompasses investigation at 3 levels: the cellular/molecular level, the physiological system level, and the whole-animal level. The benefit of this approach is two-fold. First, our findings generate a broader understanding of the physiological issues that we study. Second, our grad students and undergrads gain experience in a wider range of research skills. It would not be uncommon for a lab member to feed and weigh sheep, stain tissue sections for microscopy, change media in cell cultures, perform a hormone assay on blood samples, surgically implant fetal femoral catheters, measure gene expression in isolated RNA, and attend a seminar by an internationally-recognized leader in the field all within a normal week. In addition, our grad students have the opportunity to develop teaching and lecture skills by acting as teaching assistants for Dr. Yates' Animal Physiological Systems course taught each Fall. TAs get hands-on experience in developing teaching materials and guiding 20 junior-level undergrads through hands-on learning activities once a week.

Overview of Research Topics

  • Adaptive changes in adrenergic regulation of muscle growth and metabolism in IUGR fetuses
  • Adaptive changes in cytokine/prostaglandin regulation of muscle growth and metabolism in IUGR fetuses
  • Adaptive changes in immune cell populations in IUGR fetal skeletal muscle
  • Mechanistic differences between β1 and β2 agonists in feedlot animals, especially regarding their effects on growth, metabolic phenotypes, and animal well-being
  • Differences between long-term and intermediate-length maternal stressor on fetal metabolic and growth adaptations
  • Interactions between adrenergic and inflammatory systems during fetal stress

Lab Members

Dr. Dustin Yates giving thumbs up from carDustin Yates, PhD – Dr. Yates was born and raised in the small “Cotton & Cattle” town of Weinert, Texas in the west-central part of the state. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2004 with a BS in animal science. After managing the graveyard shift in a large feedmill for a year, Dr. Yates returned to school at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas and earned a MS in reproductive physiology with Dr. Mike Salisbury in 2006. His Master’s thesis examined the mitigating effects of seaweed extract on heat stress-induced subfertility in male goats. Dr. Yates then joined the lab of Dr. Tim Ross at New Mexico State University and graduated with a PhD in reproductive physiology in 2009. His dissertation produced eight manuscripts related to stress-induced male and female subfertility. In 2010, Dr. Yates began a four-year postdoctoral research fellowship in the lab of Dr. Sean Limesand at The University of Arizona. During this time, Dr. Yates gained many of the research skills and techniques that his lab uses today. His research with Dr. Limesand produced several key new pieces of information regarding fetal programming of muscle growth and metabolism, as well as several novel laboratory and surgical techniques for studying fetal physiology. In March of 2013, Dr. Yates began his current faculty position at UNL as Animal Stress Physiologist in the Animal Science department. He is also a member of the Nebraska Center for Prevention of Obesity Diseases (NPOD). Dr. Yates and his wife reside in nearby Eagle, NE and have two wonderful young children, a couple dogs, and a 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood.

Lab Manager

Kristin Beede with a sheepKristin Beede, M.S.
Kristin was born in Kearney, Nebraska and after graduating from high school attended UNL with the original goal of attending vet school. Kristin completed her Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science in 2010 and then took an internship at Schering-Plough Animal Health for eight months. Following that she decided to continue her education in Reproductive Physiology and headed back to UNL to work on her Master’s degree with Dr. Jennifer Wood. After completing her Masters work which focused on the effects of maternal obesity on adipose and muscle development in the mid-gestational mouse, Kristin took a job at GeneSeek as a laboratory technician in their veterinary diagnostics division. After one year at GeneSeek, a position opened up at the University with Dr. Yates so Kristin got the opportunity to get back to research which is what she loves to do. Kristin is in charge of the daily activities of the laboratory as well as training laboratory skills to the graduate and undergraduate students. Kristin along with her husband Matt have one daughter, Emma, and two dogs Bailey and Cruz.

PhD Students

Caitlin Cadaret with sheep
Caitlin Cadaret, MS (PhD expected 2020)

Caitlin found her passion for animal agriculture at a young age growing up on a part-time cow-calf operation in Northern California. Upon graduation from high school Caitlin began her undergraduate degree at Shasta College majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and University Studies. She later transferred to California State University, Chico where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science in 2014. While the original intent was to go to veterinary school, during her undergraduate career she found a special interest in Physiology and a desire to teach. Joining Dr. Yates lab in January 2015 Caitlin’s research involves the effects of heat stress induced growth restriction on fetal muscle development and metabolism. Part of Caitlin’s assistantship involves a 50% teaching appointment in which she teaches the laboratory portion of the undergraduate Anatomy and Physiology class. After graduation she plans to continue on to teach at the University level. AWARDS: 2016 – William G. Whitmore Memorial Student Travel Grant, Univ of Nebraska-Lincoln 2016 – Aspen/Snowmass Perinatal Biology Travel Award, USDA/NIH 2016 – Graduate College Student Travel Grant, Univ of Nebraska-Lincoln

Masters Students

Taylor Barnes with a sheep
Taylor Barnes, BS (MS expected 2018)

Taylor grew up in Gretna, Nebraska surrounded by animals both large and small. She showed horses and other species in 4-H which sparked a passion for animal science and teaching at an early age. After two years at two other colleges, she made the move to UNL to study animal science which ended up sparking an interest in physiology classes. She had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for three of those physiology classes. While at UNL she also played a role in helping to develop the Hub (a student study/commons area), ran an undergraduate career networking night, and stayed heavily involved in 4-H. After graduating with her Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science in May 2016 she joined Dr. Yates and Dr. Jessica Peterson’s labs to earn her Master's degree. Taylor’s current career aspirations is to pursue a PhD and obtain an academic teaching appointment. AWARDS: 2017 – 2nd Place Graduate Student Competition, Western Section American Society of Animal Science 2017 – William G. Whitmore Memorial Student Travel Grant, Univ of Nebraska-Lincoln

Robert Posont with a sheep
Robert Posont, BS (MS expected 2019)

Robert was born in Denver, Colorado before moving to a small acreage just outside of Lincoln, Nebraska in 2001. He grew up in rural Nebraska attending District 145 schools surrounded by his own pets, and working with the livestock of his neighbors. Robert found his true passion for animal agriculture and care in 2013 when he spent the Summer working as Wrangler at YMCA Camp Kitaki. Upon graduation from Waverly High School that same year he began his undergraduate degree at The University of Toronto. In May of 2017 Robert received his Honors Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Animal Physiology and Health & Disease, and a minor in Immunology. During his final year of study Robert found himself drawn toward research in Comparative Endocrinology and Stress Physiology. In June of 2017 he joined Dr. Yates’ laboratory, and began his graduate career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His current research involves the effects of maternal immunological activation and cytokine release on both fetal and lamb muscle development and metabolism. Upon completion of his Master’s Degree at UNL Robert intends to pursue a career as a research scientist and consultant for the United States government within the USDA, FDA, or NIH.

Undergraduate Students

Sophia Lentfer and sheepSophia Lentfer (BS expected 2020) - Sophia is from Firth, Nebraska where she comes from a background showing pigs and sheep in 4-H and FFA. Sophia graduated from Norris High School and is currently a freshman with an Animal Science major. She decided to study at UNL because of the programs they offer as well as it being close to home. Sophia is on the UNL Meats Judging Team and in the Kappa Delta Sorority. She plans to continue to pursue her bachelor's degree with a goal of staying heavily involved in agriculture.

Former Students

Elena Merrick, MS -Elena grew up in the rural community of Danvers, Illinois. Elena began her college career at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Wyoming where she received her Associate's Degree in Animal Science. After, she decided to move back home to Central Illinois and attend Illinois State University where she received her Bachelor's degree in Animal Science in May of 2015. In August of 2015, she started graduate school at UNL in Dr. Yates's lab. Her research involved the effects of maternal stress on prenatal muscle development and glucose metabolism. She received her Master's Degree in August 2017 and has since took a job with the Maschhoffs in Columbus, NE as a swine facilities manager in a grower unit.

Hannah Riley, BS –Hannah got a BS in Animal Science with a minor in Agribusiness in May 2016. She worked in our lab from 2014 through her graduation where she completed an Undergraduate Creative Activity and Research (UCARE) project. Hannah is currently pursuing her Master’s degree with Dr. Mary Drewnoski at UNL in heifer development.

Visual Research Projects

Click the picture for a PDF (830 kb)
Final NPOD Spring Retreat 2017 Merrick

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Caderet Poster

Click the picture for a PDF (1.07 mb)
Perinatal Biology

Click the picture for a PDF (691 kb)

Click the picture for a PDF (586 kb)
Taylor's NOPD


  1. Cadaret CN, Beede KA, Riley HE, Yates DT. 2017. Acute exposure of primary rat soleus muscle to zilpaterol HCl (β2 adrenergic agonist), TNFα, or IL-6 in culture increases glucose oxidation rates independent of the impact on insulin signaling or glucose uptake. Cytokine. 96:107-113. PDF (681 kb)
  2. Yates DT, Cadaret CN, Beede KA, Riley HE, Macko AR, Anderson MJ, Camacho LE, Limesand SW. 2016. Intrauterine growth-restricted sheep fetuses exhibit smaller hindlimb muscle fibers and lower proportions of insulin-sensitive Type I fibers near term. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 310:R1020-1029. PDF (1,084 kb)

Proceedings Papers

  1. Cadaret CN, Beede KA, Riley HE, Yates DT. 2016. Insulin-associated and insulin-independent impacts of β adrenergic agonists and pro-inflammatory cytokines on glucose metabolism in primary rat soleus muscle. Proceedings, Western Section, American Society of Animal Science. Vol. 67. PDF (588 kb)
  2. Cadaret CN, Beede KA, Merrick EM, Barnes TL, Loy JD, Yates DT. 2017. Maternal inflammation at mid-gestation in pregnant rats impairs fetal muscle growth & development at terms. Proceedings, Western Section, American Society of Animal Science. Vol. 68. PDF (401 kb)
  3. Barnes TL, Kubik RM, Cadaret CN, Beede KA, Merrick EM, Chung s, Schmidt TS, Petersen JL, Yates DT. 2017. Identifying hyperthermia in heat-stressed lambs and its effects on β agonist-stimulated glucose oxidation in muscle. Proceedings, Western Section, American Society of Animal Science. Vol. 68. PDF (402 kb)


Dr. Jessica Petersen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Assistant Professor
Animal Functional Genomics
Dr. Andrea Cupp
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Professor
Reproductive Physiologist/Beef Physiologist
Dr. Sean Limesand
University of Arizona, Professor
Fetal Development and Growth

Lab Adventures


Elena's Video
Caitlin's Video
Taylor's Video
Lambs at Play Video

Still Life

Lab Group
Lamb and Elena
Lamb and Taylor
Lamb and Caitlin
Feeding time
Caitlin and Dustin taking care of lamb in a bucket
Lamb in a bucket
Dustin and Caitlin checking the lamb out
Vaccination is part of health even for the lambs
Just relaxing with Dustin
Even people need a rest
Sleeping lamb
More health checks on the moms this time
Ah supper is served to two lambs
Hen party for the Ewes
Cleaning up
Dustin sheering sheep
Help is on the way little lamb
Even the sheep get weighed
Yates' Lab Group of a different color
Poster 1
Poster 2
Poster 3
Poster 4