96th Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science Keynote Address

Spiderman Syndrome: Bacterial DNA in Animal Genomes

Dr. Julie Dunning Hotopp Professor, University of Maryland, Institute for Genome Science

Dr. HotoppJulie is a genome biologist who studies the movement of bacterial DNA into animal genomes through a process called lateral/horizontal gene transfer. Before we even knew the structure or role of DNA, scientists studied what is now known to be lateral gene transfer (LGT) in bacteria. LGT is behind the spread of antibiotic resistance as well as pathways for remediation. When Julie began her work, it was still largely thought that foreign DNA couldn’t move into eukaryotic genomes, and particularly not animal genomes or the human genome. Through her work, and the work other others, we now know that there is a plethora of bacterial DNA in animal genomes, and possible pieces of DNA in the human genome. Her research has been featured in two books, “I Contain Multitudes” by Ed Yong and “The Tangled Tree” by David Quammen as well as being named by Discover Magazine to be one of the top 100 science discoveries in 2007. 

In 1997, Julie graduated with a BS with distinction in research in Microbiology & Immunology from the University of Rochester. She obtained her PhD in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics in 2002 from Michigan State University. After doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Genome Research, in 2007, she joined the faculty at the University of Maryland Baltimore where she is now a full professor.