Modelling provirus, the reservoir of viral genes in our DNA

Friday, December 15, 2017 11:00 am - 11:00 am EST (GMT -05:00)

Speaker: Prof. Lindi Wahl, Department of Applied Mathematics, Western University

Abstract: Genome sequencing has revealed an unexpected prevalence of viral genes in the DNA of many higher organisms, including bacterial strains that carry over twenty full viral genomes, or humans who carry intact viral sequences from ancient epidemics.  We use both stochastic and deterministic approaches to study the evolutionary dynamics of this proviral DNA, with a focus on the impact of provirus in bacterial genomes.  Our work predicts that novel mutations are much more likely to survive and spread if they first occur in the proviral state.  We also find that an archive of viral genes in bacterial DNA can drive waves of innovation in a bacterial population.  Finally, we use data-fitting to better understand the processes that impact the size distribution of viral sequences.  Our overall goal is to better understand the evolutionary potential and impact of this prevalent and fascinating class of mobile genetic elements.