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K-State Today

February 19, 2019

Stowers Institute for Medical Research investigator to speak on Feb. 20

Submitted by Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Sarah Zanders, assistant professor in molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and assistant investigator at Stowers Institute for Medical Research, is the featured speaker for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 20. She will present "wtf Killer Meiotic Drivers" at 4 p.m. in 120 Ackert Hall.

Zanders earned her doctorate in molecular genetics and development from Cornell University in 2010 under Eric Alani. Following her degree, she served six years as a postdoctoral fellow with Harmit Malik and Gerald R. Smith in molecular genetics at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center investigating the role of selfish genetic elements on fertility, genome evolution and the origin of species. She began her independent investigations with Stowers Institute of Medical Research in 2016 and became associate dean of the graduate school in 2019.

Presentation abstract: Meiotic drivers are selfish parasitic alleles that force their own inheritance into more than half of the gametes — e.g. sperm — generated by a heterozygote. For example, a male — XY sex chromosomes — carrying a meiotic driver on his X chromosome could father up to 100 percent daughters due to the destruction of sperm carrying the Y chromosome. Meiotic drivers are found throughout eukaryotes and engineered "gene drives" are being developed to control natural populations, such as mosquitos. Despite the importance and potential of drive systems, the molecular mechanisms used by natural meiotic drivers are largely unknown. We co-discovered that the wtf family of genes in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe contains multiple meiotic drivers. These genes comprise a simple tractable model system for studying how meiotic drivers can cheat sexual reproduction and shape genome evolution. Zanders' seminar explores how wtf genes work. Zanders will present a model in which wtf genes use targeted protein aggregation to generate selective gamete death.