Evolutionary biology is full of wonderful and surprising things. Some of these things, like crazy-looking fish, are relatively accessible, whether or not you have formal training. Other things, like the causes and consequences of intragenomic conflict, are just as fascinating and important, but can be difficult to keep straight — even for many people within the field.
In an attempt to remedy this situation, I am putting together a series of primers — taking the most interesting and transformative ideas in the areas that I know best and introducing them in an accessible way. I have tried to write these in a way that they can be read by someone with only a basic knowledge of biology and natural selection. Hopefully, these will be helpful to working evolutionary biologists unfamiliar with these specific topics, as well as to graduate students, undergrads, and the interested lay reader.
I have started with a series of primers on Genomic Imprinting, which is the phenomenon where the expression pattern of a gene depends on its parental origin. So, you’ve got two copies of each gene, one from your mom, and one from your dad. If the gene is imprinted, these two gene copies will behave differently (in terms of where, when, and how they are expressed), even if the DNA sequences of the two copies are identical. These primers were originally created as blog posts, but are under revision here.
Primers in Genomic Imprinting
Genomic Imprinting I: Introduction
Genomic Imprinting II: Inclusive Fitness and Conflict
Genomic Imprinting III: The Loudest Voice Prevails
Genomic Imprinting IV: Escalation Between Loci
Genomic Imprinting V: DNA Methylation and Gene Silencing
Genomic Imprinting VI: Hemimethylation
Coming up: more primers on imprinting, and a series of primers introducing coalescent theory, which is a mathematical framework for understanding patterns of genetic relatedness.