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