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Presented By: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

EEB Thursday Seminar - Hybrid: Genetic conflict and the evolution of genome integrity

Mia Levine, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Penn Epigenetics Institute, Penn Center for Genome Integrity, University of Pennsylvania

Telomeres being studied by the lab. Photo Credit: Mia Levine Telomeres being studied by the lab. Photo Credit: Mia Levine
Telomeres being studied by the lab. Photo Credit: Mia Levine
Our weekly seminar series featuring internal and external speakers in the field of ecology and evolutionary biology. This seminar will be in-person and livestreaming on Zoom (link this page).

Abstract:
A single genome appears to be a cohesive community of distinct genes with common incentives. Across development, genes collaborate to build a robust and fertile individual. Across evolution, genes accumulate adaptive DNA sequence changes that build an even more robust, and even more fertile, individual. The more robust and fertile the individual, the more copies of all these genes in the next generation. In this way, our genome’s distinct genes contribute to a communal good. However, much of our DNA actually serves no beneficial function. Most of this DNA has minimal effect on our health and fertility; consequently, natural selection fails to efficiently purge it from our genome. Some of this DNA harms us. This so-called “selfish DNA” acts akin to viruses, hijacking our cell’s machinery to make more copies of itself. While most viruses achieve evolutionary success upon transmission from one individual to another, these selfish elements achieve evolutionary success by increasing their own genomic copy number from one generation to another. When selfish elements win, the rest of the genome loses. Compromised Darwinian fitness puts evolutionary pressure on our genome to police these elements. Selfish DNA fights back with counter-adaptations, escalating a “molecular arms race.” In my seminar, I will describe my lab’s efforts to define the identity, molecular mechanisms, and biological consequences of such genetic conflicts between genomic hijackers and genomic guardians. To gain these insights, we generate interspecies swaps of adaptively evolving proteins that package the rapidly evolving repetitive DNA around
the telomeres and centromeres of Drosophila melanogaster. Using cell biology, next generation sequencing, and classical genetics, we probe how intra-genomic conflict between genes and DNA repeats shapes the evolution of genome integrity.

Contact eebsemaccess@umich.edu for Zoom password at least 2 hours prior to event.
Telomeres being studied by the lab. Photo Credit: Mia Levine Telomeres being studied by the lab. Photo Credit: Mia Levine
Telomeres being studied by the lab. Photo Credit: Mia Levine

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