Special seminar - Andrea Betancourt: The P-element invasion of Drosophila simulans

  • Date: Jun 11, 2019
  • Time: 11:00 - 12:00
  • Speaker: Andrea Betancourt from the University of Liverpool, UK
  • For more information on the speaker and her expertise, please check https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/integrative-biology/staff/andrea-betancourt/
  • Location: MPI Plön
  • Room: Lecture hall
  • Host: Tobias Kaiser


Transposable elements are widespread genomic parasites, and the archetypal example of a selfish gene, which can impose large fitness costs on their hosts. The key to their long-term persistence may therefore be the ability to spread between hosts, as exemplified by the invasion of Drosophila melanogaster by the P-element. This transposable element originated in a distant relative and spread through D. melanogaster in the latter half of the 20th century. Recently, we discovered a second invasion of a Drosophila species by the P-element. We find that the P-element spread through D. simulans rapidly and nearly simultaneously on three continents, with strains containing P-elements being rare in 2006 and common by 2014. Remarkably, the flies appear to have evolved to adapt to the presence of the P-element in this short time frame: fly strains collected from the early phase of this invasion are vulnerable to DNA damage from the P-element, while those from the latter phase are not. We investigate the genetic basis of this resistance, and find it appears to have little to do with the small RNA defence usually invoked in transposable element suppression.

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