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Genetics and Genomics
In every growing cell, the DNA replication and transcription machineries are routinely in conflict with each other. Replication-transcription conflicts have various negative outcomes, including slowing of DNA replication forks, and breaks in the DNA. Survival, despite the existence of conflicts, depends on essential conflict resolution factors that all organisms harbor. In this seminar, I will highlight some of the new insights we have gained regarding the multi-faceted effects of these encounters on key parameters of cellular function.
Our research is aimed at understanding the development and evolution of the nervous system. We focus on the visual system of insects, particularly at the level of how cell fates are specified. Changes to the number and types of neurons animals produce can be adaptive, allowing for expanded color vision in butterflies or providing more sensitive target detection for male flies that chase their mates.
From agriculture to urbanization to invasive species, humans have created novel evolutionary challenges for organisms across the globe. Perhaps one of the most widespread of these challenges is climate change, which pushes organisms past their physiological limits and can result in population decline or local extinction. With the increasing ease of genome sequencing in natural populations, genetic variation associated with climate has been uncovered in a wide variety of systems.
Members of the Archaea (the third domain of life) that can produce methane are referred to as methanogens. These organisms are prevalent in a wide range of anoxic environments, including the human distal gut, and account for 75 to 80 percent of the annual methane emissions on our planet. Therefore methanogens have significant implications for climate science, biotechnology and even aspects of human health. Despite their importance, the physiology and evolution of methanogens is still poorly understood.
Asymmetric cell division is a fundamental mechanism to diversify cell fates. Adult stem cells often divide asymmetrically to generate one stem cell and one differentiating cell to maintain tissue homeostasis. Non-random sister chromatid segregation has been proposed as a potential mechanism utilized by stem cells to protect the genome from mutations or to confer distinct epigenetic information to daughter cells. However, the underlying mechanisms or the biological significance of such a phenomenon has never been directly demonstrated.