[ASC-list] ACT - Academy public lecture: Weird animal genomes, sex and the future of men

Kylie Walker Kylie.Walker at science.org.au
Mon Mar 25 03:01:54 UTC 2013

Dear ASCers,

You are invited to register for a free public lecture by renowned evolutionary geneticist Professor Jenny Graves. RSVPs are essential for catering purposes: please see details below.

Hope you can make it to the Shine Dome next Tuesday. If you are unable to make the event in person, you are welcome to tune in live online via the link below.


Weird animal genomes, sex and the future of men
Australia was a rather late entry into the big genome business, but genomes of our unique animals are proving a goldmine of information. This is because Australia has been cut off from other continents for a long time, so the genes and regulatory systems of our animals have had time to evolve differently. From the mid-2000s, when Australia quit the race to sequence the first marsupial, several of our animals were sequenced overseas, including the kangaroo and platypus. Now sequencing has become so cheap and available, the world is clamouring for more - many Australian marsupials, monotremes, birds, snakes and lizards are on the list.
These genome differences can provide insights for all sorts of studies, including basic investigations of animal development that can be used to improve medical practice. Our studies have been on sex, and here, Australian animals - kangaroos, platypus and dragon lizards, have delivered stunning insights into what chromosomes and genes determine sex, how they work and how they evolved.
In humans and other mammals, females have two X chromosomes, but males have a single X, and a Y that bears a gene (SRY) that induces testis differentiation in the embryo and switches on hormones that masculinize it. The human X has more than 1500 genes, but the tiny Y is a genetic wasteland - full of genetic junk and bearing only 45 genes, most active only in testis. To discover how human sex chromosomes got to be so weird, we compare the chromosomes, genes and DNA in distantly related mammals and even birds and reptiles (with completely different sex determining systems). Kangaroo sex chromosomes reveal the original mammal sex chromosomes, while the bizarre platypus sex chromosomes (more related to those of birds) tell us that human sex chromosomes and the SRY gene are relatively young. The human X and Y evolved from an ordinary chromosome pair as the Y degraded progressively. The Y is predicted to disappear in just 5 million years. If humans don't become extinct, new sex determining genes and chromosomes will evolve, maybe leading to the evolution of new hominid species.
Tuesday 2 April 2013, 6 pm
Professor Jennifer A. Marshall Graves
La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science, La Trobe University; Research School of Biology, ANU; Institute of Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, and Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne
[Professor Graves]
Jenny Graves is an evolutionary geneticist who works on Australian animals, including kangaroos and platypus, devils (Tasmanian) and dragons (lizards). Her group uses their distant relationship to humans to discover how genes and chromosomes and regulatory systems evolved, and how they work in all animals including us. Her laboratory uses this unique perspective to explore the origin, function and fate of human sex genes and chromosomes, (in)famously predicting that the Y chromosome will disappear.
Jenny graduated (BSc, MSc) from the University of Adelaide, then a Fulbright Travel grant took her to the University of California at Berkeley for a PhD in Molecular Biology. She lectured at La Trobe for many years, then headed a department at ANU before returning to La Trobe as Distinguished Professor; she is also Professor Emeritus at ANU, Thinker-in-Residence at the University of Canberra and Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She has produced three books and more than 400 research articles.
Jenny has received many honours and awards, including the Academy's Macfarlane Burnet medal in 2006 and an AO in 2010. She is 2006 L'Oreal-UNESCO Laureate for Women in Science. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and as the secretary for Education and Public Affairs oversees the Academy's school science education projects.
This lecture is co-sponsored by

Tuesday 2 April 2013
Refreshments from 5:30 pm
Lecture and live streaming from 6pm


Shine Dome, Gordon Street, Canberra
View map<http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=embed&hl=en&geocode=&q=australian+academy+of+science&sll=32.249974,3.339844&sspn=92.402676,227.8125&ie=UTF8&ll=-35.283188,149.123192&spn=0.006131,0.00912&z=16&iwloc=A>


Free entry and parking


RSVPs essential via http://www.eventbrite.com.au/event/4962863057
Further information from Mitchell Piercey
Email: mitchell.piercey at science.org.au<mailto:mitchell.piercey at science.org.au>
Phone: 02 6201 9462
Fax: 02 6201 9494

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