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Bioinformatics and Genomics

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Bioinformatics and Genomics

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Featuring Katju Lab

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection rests on the presence of genetic variation among individuals within a population.  Genetic variation provides the fodder for evolutionary change.  Mutation is the major evolutionary force that introduces this genetic variation into a population.  As such, without mutations, there is no evolution. Research in the Katju Lab investigates the rate of origin of these spontaneous mutations and their effects on fitness.  

The Katju Lab focuses on investigating the rate of origin of different classes of spontaneous mutations (SNPs, small indels, copy-number changes both in the mtDNA and nuclear genomes of eukaryotes) and their average fitness effects using C. elegans through the employment of time- and labor-intensive mutation accumulation (MA) lines.

Katju Lab

The vast majority of MA studies use a constant and minimal effective population size.  The Katju Lab’s MA experiment is conducted with three population size treatments of N =1, 10 and 100 individuals per generation, over 409 consecutive generations spanning ~4.5 years.  The varying Ne treatment offers a powerful framework to (i) assess the interaction between mutation and natural selection in determining the distribution of mutations as well as (ii) determine, from a conservation biology standpoint, how the fitness of smaller populations is compromised due to a buildup of genetic load relative to larger populations.

They rely on computational and bioinformatics approaches to identify mutations at a genome-wide scale.  Their current research, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to identify all major classes of mitochondrial and nuclear mutations in the genomes of the MA lines. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Washington and University of British Columbia, they have generated 86 whole-genome sequences of their experimental lines using Illumina paired-ends sequencing technology.  

Learn more about research in the Katju Lab by visiting their website ( or emailing Dr. Vaishali Katju (