Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Hoffmann, Federico G.

Committee Member

Perkins, Andy D.

Committee Member

Peterson, Daniel G.

Committee Member

Ray, David A.

Committee Member

Outlaw, Diana C.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Molecular Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology


The evolution of genes and genomes has attracted great interest. The research presented here is an examination of genomes at three distinct levels, protein evolution, gene family evolution, and TE content regulation. First at a genetic level, I conducted an analysis of the salivary androgen-binding proteins (ABPs). I focused on comparing patterns of molecular evolution between the Abpa gene expressed in the submaxillary glands of species of New World and Old World muroids and found that in both sets of rodents, the Abpa gene expressed in the submaxillary glands appear to be evolving under sexual selection, suggesting ABP might play a similar biological role in both systems. Thus, ABP could be involved with mate recognition and species isolation in New World as well as Old World muroids. Second I examined the largest gene family in vertebrate olfactory receptors (ORs) among birds and reptiles. I found that the number of intact OR genes in sauropsid genomes analyzed ranged over an order of magnitude, from 108 in the lizard to over 1000 in turtles. My results suggest that different sauropsid lineages have highly divergent OR repertoire compositions. These differences suggest that varying rates of gene birth and death, together with selection related to diverse natural histories, have shaped the unique OR repertoires observed across sauropsid lineages. Lastly, I studied the interactions between transposable elements (TEs) and PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) among laurasiatherian mammals. piRNAs are predominantly expressed in germlines and reduce TE expression and risks associated with their mobilization. I found that within TE types, families that are the most highly transcribed appear to elicit the strongest ping-pong response. This was most evident among LINEs, but the relationships between expression and PPE was more complex among SINEs. I also found that the abundance of insertions within piRNAs clusters strongly correlated with genome insertions and there was little evidence to suggest that piRNA clusters regulated TE silencing. In summary, the piRNA response is efficient at protecting the genome against TE mobility, particularly LINEs, and can have an evolutionary impact on the TE composition of a genome.