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Molecular Biology of Introns

Some introns are retroelements that
shape genomes!

We work on introns that are both self-splicing RNAs and mobile genetic elements that invade DNA.  Group I introns encode endonucleases that allow them to invade DNA.  In contrast, group II introns invade DNA via an RNA intermediate and they are therefore retroelements, like retrotransposons and retroviruses.

Group II introns are putative ancestors of both spliceosomal introns and retrotransposons. The introns function as a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex, comprising a catalytic RNA complexed with an intron-encoded protein.

We study:

  • The role of the host cell in regulating both splicing function and retrotransposition.

  • The dynamic structure of this RNP, and it's conformational changes.

  • The role of stress responses on intron dispersal.

  • Intron evolution and the function of group II introns expressed from the yeast nucleus.

  • The synergistic relationship between bacterial conjugation and intron retrotransposition in promoting horizontal gene transfer.