Epigenetic effects of transposable elements
Organisms have evolved ways to “mark” TE sequences with repressive epigenetic marks, which reduce the ability of TEs to move and to multiply. However, as a side effect, the repressive epigenetic marks at TEs could “spread” to neighboring genes, which, strikingly, can lead to changes in the 3D nuclear structure of the genome. I found this phenomenon (“epigenetic effects of TEs”) is highly prevalent in Drosophila genomes, can interfere with gene function, and is strongly selected against by natural selection. I am investigating the variation of TE's epigenetic effects within and between species and identifying genetic factors responsible for such variation, with the goal of understanding the role of TE's epigenetic effects in the evolution of both TEs and host genomes.