Transposons are integral components of genomes in essentially all organisms. While their mobilization can be destructive to their hosts, transposons can contribute to host fitness by providing a reservoir of DNA sequences that their hosts can use. This includes regulatory DNA sequences for controlling host transcription and protein coding sequences for the production of specialized DNA cleavage/ligation proteins. We are working towards establishing a new paradigm for transposon ‘domestication’ wherein a transposon contributes regulatory RNAs to control host gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. In the course of studying regulatory mechanisms controlling transposition of a bacterial insertion sequence in E. coli and Salmonella, we identified transposon-encoded RNAs that have the capacity to regulate host gene expression. Notably this includes genes that are important for pathogenicity and carbohydrate metabolism. Current projects in the lab focus on:


1. Defining targets of transposon-encoded regulatory RNAs in a variety of bacterial species


2. Defining mechanisms through which transposon-encoded regulatory RNAs regulate host gene expression


3. Determining if transposon-encoded regulatory RNAs play and important role in pathogenesis and metabolism


4. Determining if transposon-encoded regulatory RNAs co-evolve with their targets