Does Alternative Transposition, a Potential Genome-restructuring Activity, Occur in Petunia?

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Gilbert, Kaitlyn
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.

Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

Transposable Elements (TEs) are segments of DNA that can move throughout the genome. TEs are present in most species and can cause insertions and deletions in the genetic sequence. TEs encode a transposase enzyme which excises the TE and inserts it elsewhere. This is considered standard transposition. Alternative Transposition occurs when transposase acts on the termini of two different TEs. This action can result in major chromosomal rearrangements or chromosomal breakage. Alternative Transposition has been observed previously with maize Ac/Ds elements; here, we are asking whether it also occurs in Petunia hybrida. Petunias have dTph1 TEs which are small, non-autonomous transposons. The S857 allele contains two copies of dTph1 located approximately 30 bp apart and facing in opposite orientations. PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) will be used to identify petunias with both elements, and PCR experiments with primers facing in the same direction will be used to test for Alternative Transposition. A product should be generated only if Alternative Transposition has occurred and the primers are re-oriented to face one another. The results may provide evidence that Alternative Transposition can occur in multiple species, suggesting that it may have had a significant impact on the evolution of plant genomes.

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