Biology Graduate Student Receives Fellowship to Present at Genome 10K Conference

By Whitney Harder

(Feb. 26, 2015) — Melissa Keinath, a graduate student in the University of Kentucky Department of Biology, has been awarded a Genome 10K fellowship to attend the 2015 Genome 10K Conference and present her research poster, "Characterization of a Large Vertebrate Genome Using Shotgun and Laser Capture Chromosome Sequencing." The conference will take place March 1-5 in Santa Cruz, California.

A relatively exclusive event, the Genome 10K Conference will explore critical topics essential for assembling a "genomic zoo" of some 10,000 vertebrate species. The zoo will help understand how complex animal life evolved through changes in DNA and create a resource for worldwide conservation efforts.

Working with Department of Biology Professor Jeramiah Smith in his lab and co-mentored by Associate Chair of Research and Professor Randal Voss, both part of the unofficial "regeneration cluster" in the department, Keinath has conducted research on axolotls, also known as Mexican salamanders. Axolotls, among the most-studied salamanders in the world, can regenerate or regrow a variety of body parts, including limbs and even portions of major organs.

Keinath's poster at the Genome 10K Conference will describe the team's recent efforts to sequence and assemble the axolotl genome, a very complex and highly repetitive genome approximately 10 times the size of the human genome. Sequencing the genome could prove useful in understanding how axolotls regenerate, and as the species is considered critically endangered, it could also be useful for conservation efforts.

More recently, Keinath has begun working on the axolotls' sex chromosome evolution.

"Axolotls offer a unique perspective on the early stages of sex chromosome evolution, as their sex chromosomes are recently evolved," she said. Keinath is using genomic and cytogenetic approaches to better characterize these sex chromosomes within a few closely related species in the tiger salamander complex.

Learn more about the work of the "regeneration cluster," a dynamic and productive collaboration of researchers in the Department of Biology, in a previous UKNow article and UK Research Communications video at http://uknow.uky.edu/content/talking-bout-regeneration

Watch Keinath working in the UK Imaging Facility below. Video produced by UK Research Communications

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