New research explores horizontal gene transfer

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - 18:30 in Biology & Nature

In science, as in life, timing can be everything. So it was when Cassandra Extavour, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology, set out to understand whether horizontal gene transfer — the process of passing genes between organisms without sexual reproduction — might be responsible for part of the makeup of a gene, known as oskar, that plays a critical role in the creation of germ cells in some insects. Over the last decade, Extavour pitched the project to graduate students more than 10 times. They would investigate the idea but, ultimately, decide it was too complex and unwieldy.  Enter Leo Blondel. As a first-year graduate student in the Molecules, Cells, and Organisms (MCO) program, in which students complete rotations in various labs before selecting one to join, Blondel was able to provide the strongest suggestive evidence yet that at least part of oskar actually came from bacterial genomes....

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