Assistant Professor Dan Sloan was awarded a research grant from the National Science Foundation (Molecular and Cellular Biosciences) for “Co-Evolving Genomes: The Impact of Mitochondrial Genome Instability on the Nucleus”.
In this 3-year, $330,000 project, Dr. Sloan will make among-species comparisons of nuclear genes that influence genome size, mutation rates, and gene function in mitochondrial genomes. This addresses the broader question of how different parts of the genomes (those in the cell nucleus versus those located in organelles) of Eukaryotic organisms co-evolve. The focus of the study is the plant genus Silene (Caryophyllaceae), which includes the moss campion and other wildflower species familiar to those who spend time in the Rocky Mountains. Species in the genus Silene display enormous natural variation in mitochondrial genome size, structure, gene content, and mutation rate.
Pictured: Silene conica, “sand catchfly”, which has an extremely high rate of mitochondrial sequence evolution and the largest known mitochondrial genome
Dr. Sloan is an evolutionary biologist who joined the Biology Department a year ago, after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in 2011 and two years of post-doctoral research at Yale University.