The Paul Lab

 
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Dr. Blair G. Paul
Assistant Scientist
e: bgpaul@mbl.edu
Paul CV

 

Overview:
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Our lab investigates the influence of genetic variation on physical and chemical interactions among microorganisms, with additional interest in microbe-virus dynamics. Current projects examine variation in genomes and proteins of bacteria, archaea, and viruses, while considering the ecological importance of diversification in shaping microbial partnerships. To this end, we apply a combination of computational, molecular, and geochemical tools to study microbial communities and viral assemblages from various environments.

Diversity-Generating Retroelements:

One area of our research addresses a unique class of retroelements, which can drive accelerated variation in targeted genes. Through a process called mutagenic retrohoming, diversity-generating retroelements (DGRs) enable codon re-writing and can explore a massive repertoire of sequence variants for specific proteins. This phenomenon of targeted protein evolution appears to be important in members of a range of bacterial and archaeal lineages, and intriguingly, at highest incidence in organisms thriving in particular freshwater and gut-associated communities.  We seek to characterize different functional types of hypervariable proteins, while separately assessing host regulatory controls on DGRs themselves.

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Undefined Processes Driving Protein Variation:

In examining bacterial and archaeal genomes, we can identify numerous genes that seem to be hotspots of variation, which we cannot immediately link to either a diversifying mechanism, or to stochastic mutation.  We seek to design molecular experiments that address what genomic factors (if any) might promote or constrain sequence variation, while also examining the functional significance of these variable proteins.

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