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GEN’s editorial staff interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia and the J. Craig Venter Institute analyzed the mitochondrial genome of the human body louse (Pediculus humanus) and discovered that it is fragmented into many pieces. In contrast to the single circular mitochondrial chromosome typical of most animals, P. humanus has evolved a set of 18 minichromosomes. While multiple mitochondrial minichromosomes have been previously described in plants and protists, this is the first report of an animal adopting a highly fragmented mtDNA structure.

During this week’s podcast the University of Queensland’s Dr. Stephen Barker speculates on how this fragmented mitochondrial DNA structure evolved and what advantages it might confer on the louse. In addition, he discusses the sequencing methodology the research team used and describes sequencing studies of the human body louse carried out by other groups around the world.

Dr. Barker also addresses such questions as why is the fragmented mitochondrial DNA structure restricted to this lineage, why don’t we see transitional stages of this organization in related lice, and what implications might fragmented minichromosomes have for gene regulation?
Stephen C. Barker is an expert consultant to the national pharmaceutical industry on the design, execution and reporting of clinical trials of pediculicides (OTC, over-the-counter, medicines for the treatment of pediculosis ie infection with head lice and/or body lice). Barker also studies the genetics and evolution of lice and ticks. Barker has 115 papers in international scientific journals. Barker is a Reader at the University Of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

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