Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Brandon Endo L&S Sciences

The origin and evolution of duplicated mitochondrial genes in the parthenogenic gecko, Heteronotia binoei

There are forms of the gecko species, Heteronotia binoei, that reproduce sexually that gave rise to forms that reproduce asexually through the process of parthenogenesis. Parthenogens have sections of duplicated genes in their mitochondrial genome while sexual forms do not. My project is to sequence and compare the mitochondrial genes of the sexual and parthenogenic forms to characterize their evolution since their divergence. I will also compare duplicated gene copies to one another within the parthenogenic individuals to characterize evolution of each gene since the duplication event. Gene duplication and subsequent mutation may lead to gene rearrangements within the parthenogenic gecko. Gene rearrangements are found in many other animal species but a mechanism remains unclear. Heteronotia may provide valuable insight into this phenomenon.

Message To Sponsor

This project is somewhat of a daunting task for me since I am working more independently than I ever have before. There are a number of tedious and finicky molecular lab techniques that are required for genomic sequencing. As I run into problems, I am forced to experiment on my own and learn through trial and error, rather than obtaining answers from my research advisors. Genomic comparisons also require computer programs that I am not familiar with. Although this is good preparation for my future education, it is difficult to get used to. This is a good time for this transition as I have more time over the summer than during the school year for lab problem solving.
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Mentor: Craig Moritz, Integrative Biology
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