|Last name||Robert Blevins|
My most recent research project focused on the emergence of new genes from intergenic regions of DNA; this mechanism, called de novo gene birth, is a subject that has been piquing the interest of scientists over the past decade [https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1008160]. The breadth of the evolutionary impact of de novo genes was initially believed to be quite small, but recent studies have suggested that de novo gene birth events could be much more common than what was previously thought [https://phys.org/news/2020-02-de-novo-genes-common-important.html].
My project involved the creation of a novel data set of next-generation sequencing data (RNA-seq and ribosome profiling) as well as proteomics data for 11 different species of yeast [https://bmcresnotes.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13104-019-4286-0]. I created a custom bioinformatic pipeline to process and analyze these data, and I identified 213 genes which were likely to have emerged de novo sometime over the last 20 million years of evolution [https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/575837v1]. We found that de novo genes in baker’s yeast are often found in an antisense overlapping orientation with more ancient genes, suggesting that this configuration may favor the expression (and translation) of young genes in densely-packed genomes.
Via an ex colleague who is a bioinformatics specialist in a hospital