Our genomes are a tenuous conglomerate of different genetic entities, each trying to maximize their own evolutionary success, often at great cost to their genomic neighbors. As expected, this conflict can create problems for the host organism. My lab is interested in evolutionary studies of genetic conflict to gain insight into their mechanisms and consequences. For this purpose, we study centromeres, mobile genetic elements and rapidly evolving proteins in Drosophila.
Rapidly evolving proteins in Drosophila have been found as a consequence to genetic conflict, including host-parasite interactions (ex. Immunoglobulin, viral envelopes). Recent studies have found that a large number of ''speciation'' genes encode either DNA-binding proteins or even components of the nuclear pore complex. My lab has initiated cytological and functional studies with the ultimate aim of understanding what selective pressures drive the adaptive evolution of these classical intra-cellular proteins (i.e. what genetic conflict are they subject to). This will further our understanding of the role selection plays in the shaping of our genomes, and potentially expand the list of categories to which rapidly evolving proteins can belong.