Rachel O’Neill recently received a $999,999 grant from the NSF. Project Title: Collaborative Research: Impact of a Novel Retrotransposon Expansion on Centromere Function.

Centromeres ensure the correct segregation of chromosomes during cell division and are fundamental to genome evolution. While expansions of DNA within centromeres are known for many species, most centromeres are stable over evolutionary time and are relatively uniform across all centromeres in one genome. Thus, decoupling the equilibration events that occur across chromosomes from the initial seeding events specific to a subset of chromosomes has not been possible in most model systems. This research capitalizes on the recently discovered centromeric expansion of a selfish element, the LAVA retroelement, in a subset of chromosomes in one gibbon genus (Hoolock). Collectively, this funded work will delineate the impact of the organization and function of selfish elements (and conflict) among newly seeded centromeres and stabilized centromeres within one karyotype.

In collaboration with Lucia Carbone, Oregon Health Science Center.