Research Interests

As a population and evolutionary geneticist, I have studied the structure, regulation, distribution, and evolution of transposable genetic elements in Drosophila. Together with collaborators, I earlier described the phenotypic manifestations and genetic transmission of a syndrome of abnormal genetic traits, named "hybrid dysgenesis." This was later found to result from the activation of several families of mobile elements, including the P, I, and hobo elements. The P element has subsequently been developed by others for genetic transformation and other genetic engineering applications in Drosophila. Through detailed studies of the distribution of P elements in natural and laboratory populations of Drosophila, my laboratory provided conclusive evidence that this element recently invaded the cosmopolitan species Drosophila melanogaster following its introduction from the distantly related species, Drosophila willistoni, by horizontal transfer. Currently, we are studying parasitic mites as possible vectors in horizontal transfer, and a detailed molecular phylogeny of P elements is being reconstructed. The feasibility of using transposable elements as population drive mechanisms for spreading engineered genes in insect populations is also being investigated, together with the possible application of Drosophila genetic engineering techniques to Anopheline malaria vectors.

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Primary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology

Secondary Section

Section 26: Genetics