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Undergraduate Iva Sinamati wins award at Sigma Xi Conference

Friday, November 22, 2013
Undergraduate Iva Sinamati wins award at Sigma Xi Conference
Five Oakland University undergraduates attended the Sigma Xi Student Research Conference, held in November 8 & 9 in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. One of them, biology major Iva Sinamati, received an award from Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, for her presentation. Sinamati works with Assistant Professor Fabia Battistuzzi, of the Department of Biological Sciences, on her evolutionary biology research. Battistuzzi says “in this ‘big data era’, the aim of Iva's project is to find the evolutionary thread that connects thousands of bacterial genomes, to find patterns in the apparent randomness of genetic variability. It is a formidable challenge that Iva embraced enthusiastically since joining the lab thanks to her strong aptitude for computational approaches and her interest in investigating biomedically-related questions.” The picture below shows Sinamati (center), along with Linda Meadows, the President of Sigma Xi (left), and Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation (right). Below the picture is the abstract of the award-winning presentation, coauthored by graduate student Sophia Chaudhry.

Evolutionary Analysis of Low Complexity Regions in Prokaryotes
Iva Sinamati (Oakland University), Sophia Chaudhry (Oakland University), Advisor: Fabia U. Battistuzzi (Oakland University)

Low-complexity regions (LCRs) are repetitive sequences of amino acids in proteins that are widespread across eukaryotes. Such sequences have been linked to high rates of evolutionary changes in protein sequences, generating high genetic and phenotypic variation in eukaryotes. Additionally, they have been connected to neurodegenerative diseases in humans. Initial investigations have indicated that similar structures exist in prokaryotes, but extensive studies have not been carried out. Therefore, we have analyzed the genomes of 144 fully-sequenced prokaryotic genomes, using bioinformatic tools and carrying out comparative analysis to investigate the prevalence of LCR structures in prokaryotes. Our study shows that patterns of amino acid frequency in LCRs are unrelated to the amino acid frequencies of the complete proteomes and, in some cases, are class-specific. For example, in 78 fully sequenced genomes of Actinobacteria we find that the frequency of alanine in LCRs is higher than that in the full proteomes. This “alanine spike” in LCRs’ composition seems unique to this class. Interestingly, pathogenic and free-living Actinobacteria do not show different trends in LCR composition leaving uncertain the connection between LCR evolution and phenotypic variation in this group of prokaryotes.