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Invasion of a selfish element

The P-element is a transposable element, or "jumping gene", which spreads by reproducing within a host's genome. We documented the invasion of this transposon in a new Drosophila host, and found that it spread astonishingly rapidly, across three continents in the space of a decade.  At the same time, flies adapted quickly to suppress the P-element. We are currently trying to understand the genetic basis of this rapid adaptation.  Funded by the FWF.

Normal Drosophila ovaries (left), and dysgenic ovaries (right) in a fly infected with an unsuppressed P-element. 

Fitness consequences of transposable elements 

Understanding why deleterious mutations persist is on one of the central questions of evolutionary genetics.  We will be using genomics and Drosophila genetics to quantify the selective impact of these parasites.  Their effects might be substantial: most classical mutations, including the very first white allele isolated in Thomas Hunt Morgan's lab, are caused by transposable elements, and most fitness variation in Drosophila is unexplained.  Funded by the BBSRC.

Population genomics of adaptation

Population genetics makes predictions about general patterns of adaptation. For example, X-linked mutations in are completely exposed to selection in males.  Does this mean that genes on sex chromosomes adapt faster compared to their autosomal counterparts?  Theories explaining the why sexual reproduction exists, in spite of its many drawbacks, suggest that recombination promotes adaptation.  Within the Drosophila genome, there are some regions that recombine freely, and others hardly at all.  Do genes in high and low recombination regions differ in their rates of adaptation?  

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