University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Thomas D. Kocher - Associate Professor of Zoology
The Molecular and Evolutionary Consequences Of Transposon Insertion
Transposons are mobile pieces of DNA, often called "jumping genes". Their existence has been known since the late 1940s when Barbara McClintock discovered them during her studies of maize. Early studies showed that transposon activity was deleterious, always causing a mutation when an element moved within the genome of an organism. It is now known that not all transposon insertions are deleterious.
It has been the objective of this research to determine the molecular and evolutionary effects of transposable elements in the nematode C. elegans. To address these issues we collected transposable element insertions in a target gene and are investigating the consequences of their insertion. We used a molecular technique (the Polymerase Chain Reaction) to identify new transposon insertions in the target gene (which codes for the major body wall protein in C. elegans) and a classical genetic approach (sib selection) to enrich for individuals carrying the insertion. This method will allow us to determine if most insertions into the target gene disrupt gene function or if transposon insertions can be "silent" and splice in the genome without causing gene function disruption.
The results of this project, as well as those of recent studies, add to our knowledge and understanding regarding the role of these insertions in molecular evolution.