Department of Integrative Biology
Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics
University of California, Berkeley
Host: Molly Przeworski
Title: "The biology of repetitive DNA: adaptation, epigenetic silencing and aging"
Abstract: Repetitive DNA is a major component of many eukaryotic genomes, yet its general role in evolution is controversial. In my talk, I will discuss three different consequences of repetitive DNA to organismal fitness, using empirical data from Drosophila. Mobile repetitive elements can contribute to the adaptive rewiring of regulatory networks, by supplying ready-to-use regulatory elements to many locations in the genome, and non-allelic gene conversion can spread beneficial mutations across different insertion sites. Furthermore, host genomes have evolved mechanisms to silence repetitive DNA through epigenetic modifications, and spreading of these epigenetic marks to nearby genes can silence their gene expression. Finally, silencing marks at repetitive DNA can get lost during an individual’s life span, and contribute to aging.