Patrick O'Farrell, PhD
|School||UCSF School of Medicine|
|Department||Biochemistry and Biophysics|
|Address||600 16th St|
San Francisco CA 94158
We are interested in the decoding of biological information to produce functional structures at the level of cells and organisms. We focus on the control of the cell cycle during development using Drosophila genetics, molecular biology and fancy microscopy. We are examining temporal coordination of early embryonic cell cycles with development. Having found that slowing early rapid cell cycles is due to prolongation of S phase, the period of DNA replication, we are studying this control. This prolongation of S phase is tightly integrated with a developmental program of chromatin changes that introduces epigenetic controls. Using GFP tagged proteins marking molecular hallmarks of these events, we are able to watch them occur in real time in embryos and to probe the processes that regulate their onset.
A newer effort explores the genetics and biology of the mitochondria. Our principle interest is in a newly recognized mystery. The mitochondrial genome encodes functions that benefit the host rather than propagation and transmission of the mitochondrial genome. This would not be problem if evolution of this genome were based on the usual selection for fit organisms as Darwin suggests. However, we found that selection is based on the ability of genomes to compete for transmission from one generation to the next. This ought to select for selfish genes promoting genome success. To achieve the real outcome, the host manipulates the competition to favor genes to its benefit. We are trying to understand how this managed evolution is achieved.
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