BIOL608W-0101: Biology Seminar; Genomic Conflict-Spring 2015 wilkinso

Genomic Conflicts: Theory and Evidence


Mondays from 2-4 PM, Room 2249 Biology-Psychology Building 

Instructor: Jerry Wilkinson, Office: 2223 Biology-Psychology Building


Summary: The recent proliferation of whole animal genomes is revealing many curious observations.  In most organisms, coding sequence makes up a very small fraction of the genome.  In some cases, such as humans, over half of the remaining sequence is comprised of copies of transposable elements.  In other species, genes on one chromosome act to kill gametes carrying a different chromosome.  In some cases, genes from one parent silence the genes inherited from the other parent. Finally, in some extreme cases, sets of chromosomes replicate at the expense of other chromosomes. Each of these cases represent an example of a selfish genetic element that has the ability to spread itself in the population despite exerting harmful effects on the whole organism.  Over the past 30 years, a variety of models have been developed to explain how such selfish elements should spread and either go to fixation, persist as a polymorphism or cause extinction.  In addition, data from a diverse array of species has been generated and a variety of interesting hypotheses have been proposed to explain how selfish elements arise. 

      The goals of this seminar are to 1) critically review classical and recent theory and evidence regarding various forms of genomic conflict and 2) identify model predictions, issues or ideas that remain to be tested. We will focus primarily on examples of genomic conflicts in animals but if there is interest among the participants, conflicts in microbes and plants can also be discussed.

Format: This seminar will meet once a week during a two-hour time block that is convenient (tentatively 4-6 PM on Mondays). After assessing the background and interests of individuals in the class, a schedule of topics for the semester will be developed and readings will be assigned. Each week a few key papers or book chapters will be assigned for all members of the class to read. In addition, each class member will read at least one additional paper on their own, and one (or two) members of the class will be responsible for giving a short presentation on the topic under discussion for the week, and for leading the discussion of the article read by all, as well as individual articles read by each class member.  Summaries of each paper will be compiled and made available on the class website.

Grading: If enrolled for one credit, grades will be based on attendance, participation in discussions, presentation, and an annotated bibliography for the material discussed during the presentation week. If enrolled for two credits, a review paper must also be completed. The paper should be written in the form of a review article for a “Trends in…” journal. The paper should be between 2,000 and 2,500 words (about 10 double-spaced pages) and should provide a balanced review of some topic that was covered during the course.

Potential Readings for Discussions

Course Summary:

Date Details Due