Jonathan Brenner

Year: Senior

Major(s):  Bioinformatics

Mentor: Putonti, Catherine

Department: Biology

Project Title: A New Tool to Identify Horizontally Transferred Elements amongst Symbiotic Species

Project Abstract: In the usual sense, transfer of genetic material and evolutionary change is thought as following a path of so called vertical inheritance. Under certain circumstances, however, a process known as horizontal (lateral) gene transfer, the direct transmission of genetic material between species, can occur. While HGT has been found quite frequently amongst bacteria and viruses, HGT between prokaryotes and multicellular eukaryotes, however, has been much less frequently observed. But given the ubiquity of intracellular symbiotic relationships, it stands to reason that HGT should be occurring with regularity in these instances. Existing bioinformatic software is ill-equipped to address the tasks necessitated by searches for HGT. As such, a new tool is needed to extract HGT elements from the genomes of closely-linked organisms. We will investigate the prevalence of HGT events amongst all extant species. An intuitive web-based application to facilitate comparative genomic searches will be developed. The proposed research will likely unearth new information about the evolutionary history of symbiotic relationships.