I. Introduction to Transposable Elements
II. How TEs Amplify throughout the Genome
Part I: Introduction to Transposable Elements
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In Part 1, Wessler introduces transposable elements (TEs); small movable pieces of DNA that can insert throughout the genome. She describes their discovery in maize by Barbara McClintock in the 1940’s and their impact on the current study of genetics. Wessler goes on to provide more details about TEs and transposase, the enzyme that facilitates insertion of TEs into the target DNA.
Amazingly, as much as 50% of a mammalian genome and much more of a plant genome can be made of TEs. In Part 2 of her talk, Wessler discusses work from her lab analyzing the impact of TEs on gene and genome evolution. By looking for and finding a TE currently undergoing rapid amplification, Wessler and her colleagues have been able to assess how a type of TE called a MITE can rapidly increase its copy number without killing its host, rice.
Susan Wessler received her BA in biology from SUNY Stony Brook and her PhD from Cornell University. While she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington she met Barbara McClintock, an event that influenced the direction of Wessler’s research career. Wessler joined the department of plant biology at the University of Georgia in 1983. She remained there until 2010 when she moved to the University of California at Riverside. Her lab studies transposable elements and their impact on evolution.
Wessler has received numerous awards for her research including election to the National Academy of Sciences where she was recently elected the first woman Home Secretary. Wessler’s dedication to innovative, hands-on teaching has also been recognized; she is the recipient of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor grant.
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Griffith, A., Wessler, S, Carroll, S; Doebley, J. (2011) Chapter 15. The Dynamic Genome: Transposable Elements. Introduction to Genetic Analysis, 10th Edition, WH Freeman publishers.
Wessler, S.R. (2006) Eukaryotic Transposable Elements: Teaching Old Genomes New Tricks. In The Implicit Genome. Caporale, LH. Editor, Oxford University Press.
Naito K, Zhang F, Tsukiyama T, Saito H, Hancock CN, Richardson AO, Okumoto Y, Tanisaka T, Wessler SR. (2009) Unexpected consequences of a sudden and massive transposon amplification on rice gene expression. Nature. 461(7267):1130-4.
Naito K, Cho E, Yang G, Campbell MA, Yano K, Okumoto Y, Tanisaka T, Wessler SR. (2006) Dramatic amplification of a rice transposable element during recent domestication. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 103(47):17620-5.
Feschotte C, Jiang N, Wessler SR. (2002) Plant transposable elements: where genetics meets genomics. Nat Rev Genet. 3(5):329-41.
Jiang N, Bao Z, Zhang X, Hirochika H, Eddy SR, McCouch SR, Wessler SR. (2003) An active DNA transposon family in rice. Nature. 421(6919):163-7.
Jiang N, Bao Z, Zhang X, Eddy SR, Wessler SR. (2004) Pack-MULE transposable elements mediate gene evolution in plants. Nature. 431(7008):569-73.
Yang G, Nagel DH, Feschotte C, Hancock CN, Wessler SR. (2009) Tuned for transposition: molecular determinants underlying the hyperactivity of a Stowaway MITE. Science. 325(5946):1391-4.