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Staff Member

Shawn M. Christensen

Shawn M. Christensen

Associate Professor, Biology

Group: Affiliated Faculty / Biology Department



I am interested in parasitic (“selfish”) mobile genetic elements, in particular, the mechanisms by which these elements replicate and the methods by which host cells combat element replication. Mobile elements, generically called transposons, can be categorized based upon element structure and mechanism of transposition: DNA transposons, Long-Terminal-Repeat (LTR) retrotransposons, non-LTR retrotransposons (aka. LINES), and SINE elements. My lab focuses on non-LTR retrotransposons.

Non-LTR retrotransposons can have a major impact on host genomes -- over 34% of the Human genome is the result of element activity. These elements transpose through a process called Target Primed Reverse Transcription (TPRT), a process my lab studies at the biochemical level.

While biochemistry and molecular biology are my lab’s primary tools we also utilize bioinformatic and genetic approaches in our study of non-LTR retrotransposons.


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