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Colloquium - Knight

How Mutational Patterns Influence Molecular Evolution
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
1/26/2006
3:30pm-4:30pm

The pattern of neutral mutation in the genomes can be modeled as a Markov process. Deviations from Markov expectations can indicate patterns of natural selection or shared ancestry, and inferring parameters of Markov processes acting over evolutionary time underpins many key bioinformatics tools. In this talk, I discuss current research in my laboratory that exploits these patterns to develop new algorithms that detect horizontal gene transfer (cases in which genes move from one species to another), relate microbial communities to one another in terms of phylogenetic diversity, predict RNA secondary structure, and identify correlations between different parts of protein sequences that explain why mutations that cause disease in humans can be tolerated in other species. By developing a global map of mutation patterns in different genes and lineages, we will be able to improve the performance of a wide range of bioinformatics techniques, and perhaps uncover the physical basis for the diversity of DNA composition in different species, a phenomenon that has puzzled biochemists for almost 50 years.

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