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Analyzing Enhancer Evolution by Determining New Genes in Caenorhabditis elegans

Semester: Summer 2023

Presentation description

It has been generally understood that in a strand of DNA, the promoter (which is necessary to bind proteins that signal the start of transcription) is found towards the 5' end while the enhancer is a regulatory element that is not necessary, but improves the efficiency for genetic transcription. Despite the enhancer's seemingly optional function, many discovered that in "new/orphan" genes, the enhancers can function similarly to promoters and eventually evolve into them if they appear nearby new genes. Orphan/new genes are found in nearly all eukaryotic species and comprise 10-30% of a species' genome. With no identifiable homolog, it can become hard to trace its origins and even its relevance when comparing the genomes of different species. This raises the question of how the evolutionary change of enhancers to promoters began to take place, and why it is possible despite their previously established functions in genetic transcription. By analyzing the extensive proteomes in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans (N2 strain) and comparing it to other closely related nematode species such as Caenorhabditis tropicalis or Caenorhabditis briggsae, as well as more distant nematodes such as Pristionchus pacificus, new genes can be specifically identified. These distinguishing genes will provide insight on the functions of the mysterious orphan genes and attribute a possible source when put in the context of evolving enhancer functions during transcription. If there is a correlation between new genes and enhancer-promoter evolution, these new genes will need to be identified and located in the genome for further investigation. These results have huge implications on how mechanisms of transcription operate in eukaryotic organisms and can be translated into the human genome to identify and treat genetic diseases.

Presenter Name: Nkechinyere Nwosu
Presentation Type: Poster
Presentation Format: In Person
Presentation #100
College: Science
School / Department: School of Biological Sciences
Research Mentor: Michael Werner
Date | Time: Thursday, Aug 3rd | 9:00 AM