Cedric Feschotte, Ph.D.


Our research focuses on mobile and invasive DNA, with an emphasis on the genomes of vertebrates, including humans. These include diverse genetic elements, such as transposons and endogenous viruses, able to integrate and often to propagate within and between genomes. Mobile elements are found in nearly all organisms and often account for the bulk of their genetic material. For example protein-coding sequences account for less than 2% of human DNA, while mobile elements occupy at least half. These elements have a tremendous impact on the structure and expression of the genome, for better or worse. For example, over a hundred human diseases, such as hemophilia A and several cancers, are directly linked to the mobility or rearrangement of mobile elements. On the other hand, there is growing evidence that a substantial fraction of human mobile elements are serving crucial cellular and developmental functions, although most remain unexplored.

My laboratory uses an integrative approach, combining bioinformatics, genetics and biochemistry, to investigate the contribution of mobile elements to genomic variation and to the emergence of biological novelty, including new genes and regulatory sequences, in a broad range of eukaryotic organisms. Another area of research activity falls within the emerging field of paleovirology. Here we capitalize on the fossil record left by viral sequences integrated in genomes to study the long-term co-evolution of viruses and their host. These studies have the power to yield critical insights into the biological and environmental factors facilitating cross-species transmission of viruses and other form of invasive DNA.

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