September 4, 2018

Laura Sligar (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)

Evolution of mitochondrial heteroplasmy in Drosophila

Evolutionary medicine strives to understand why human disorders occur. My research will use existing fruit fly genomic data to analyze mitochondrial DNA in Drosophila fruit flies. Mitochondria are small organelles that exist within the cells of our bodies, and they produce the energy we use for life: everything from running a marathon to digesting lunch. Mitochondria are different from other types of organelles because each mitochondria contains its own DNA genome. Therefore, different parts of your body could have mitochondria with different DNA: a phenomenon called heteroplasmy. This is important to understand because if two patients come to the doctor with mitochondrial disorder symptoms in different organs, they may have the same mitochondrial DNA mutation but simply have broken mitochondria in different cells. The goal of my research is to understand how heteroplasmy has evolved and how it varies within and between populations of Drosophila. (website)