The Paul Lab

Dr. Blair G. Paul
Assistant Scientist



The Paul Lab investigates the influence of genetic variation on physical and chemical interactions among microorganisms, with additional interest in microbe-virus dynamics. Our current projects examine variation in genomes and proteins of bacteria, archaea, and viruses, while considering the importance of such diversification to microbial partnerships at the ecosystem scale. To this end, we apply a combination of computational, molecular, and geochemical tools to study microbial communities and viral assemblages from aquatic or host-associated environments.

Diversity-Generating Retroelements:

A key focus of our research is on a unique class of retroelements, which can drive accelerated variation in targeted genes. Diversity-generating retroelements, or DGRs, can explore a massive repertoire of coding variability 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 or gut-associated communities.  We seek to better characterize many of these actively diversifying proteins, while separately examining host regulatory controls on DGRs themselves.

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.


Current Lab Members



Siobhan Meeken
Research Assistant I
p: 508 289 7665
f: 508 457 4727

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