Contact Information

Zoé Joly-Lopez
Department of Biology, McGill University
1205 ave Docteur Penfield, Rm N4/3
Montreal, Quebec CANADA H3A 1B1

tel. (514) 398-6409

zoe.joly-lopez @

Title of Project
Characterization of MUG1 and MUG2, two genes of the domesticated transposon gene family MUSTANG in Arabidopsis thaliana.

project description

Transposable elements (TEs) can be considered “selfish” because they propagate within host genomes without necessarily providing a selective advantage and can even be detrimental to host gene function. Nevertheless, there are a growing number of reported genes that have originated from TEs in a process called TE domestication. Since the genome is comprised in large part of TEs, the process of TE domestication may provide a reservoir of coding regions for the evolution of novel host genes.

My research focuses on a novel family of domesticated transposons in plants, MUSTANG (MUG) that was initially revealed using a bioinformatic approach. The objective of my project is to use an experimental approach that will combine gene disruption via insertion mutagenesis, detailed phenotyping, expression analyses, and bioinformatics approaches in order to understand the function and impact of MUG genes in Arabidopsis thaliana. So far, we know that some MUG genes are conserved in most angiosperm lineages and that they are functional in A. thaliana and that MUG mutations produce dramatic reductions in plant fitness.

By studying the MUG gene family in A. thaliana, we hope to shed more light on the functional importance of non-coding DNA regions.


Joly-Lopez, Z., Forczek, E., Hoen, D.R., Juretic, N., and T. E. Bureau. (2012) A Gene Family Derived from Transposable Elements during Early Angiosperm Evolution Has Reproductive Fitness Benefits in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS. Genet. 8(9): e1002931.

Dockter, C., Volkov, A. Bauer, C. Polyhach, Y., Joly-Lopez, Z., Jeschke, G., and H. Paulsen. (2009) Refolding of the integral membrane protein light-harvesting complex II monitored by pulse EPR. PNAS. 44: 18485-18490.