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March 12, 2012

The Y Chromosome: Junk or Jewel?

Professor David C. Page
Professor David C. Page will give the Levine-de Beer Lecture in Genetics

MIT Geneticist David C. Page to Urge New Respect for Maligned Gene Carrier in March 28 Lecture at CCNY

Dr. David C. Page, Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will deliver the 2012 Louis Levine – Gabriella de Beer Lecture in Genetics at The City College of New York 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, 2012. He will speak in The Great Hall of Shepard Hall, 160 Convent Avenue, New York. The lecture, titled “Rethinking the Rotting Y Chromosome,” is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

Professor Page will discuss the research history and latest thought on the Y chromosome, that scrap of genetic material on which sits the essential instructions needed to make a male. He notes that for decades the Y chromosome was considered a genetic wasteland full of junk DNA. Unlike its female counterpart, the X chromosome, the Y has accumulated errors over its history, leading to predictions of its inevitable extinction.

In his talk, Professor Page will describe how recent genomic studies have, instead, revealed the Y chromosome’s architectural beauty, evolutionary flexibility, and critical role in male fertility. Such recent research has revealed the origins of the sex chromosomes, evolving from an identical pair in our reptilian ancestors to the X and Y chromosomes we know today, and how this gives insight into human health and disease.

Replacing the common imagery of the Y chromosome as a genetic wasteland with that of a “crystal palace,” Professor Page will explain the reason for the baffling mirrored repeats in its genetic code. He discovered how these mirror-image sections actually maintain the chromosome’s genetic health and ensure its survival.

About Dr. David C. Page

Professor Page is director of the Whitehead Institute, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Over three decades, his laboratory has explored the many forces and events of reproduction that define a human being, often overturning conventional wisdom in the process. They have traced the evolution of sex chromosomes and revealed the origins of the sex cells in the fetus.

He has countered the “disappearing Y” theory with evidence of its internal genetic ‘palindromes.’ These mirror-image sequences allow an ingenious internal swapping of genes to preserve the chromosome. He revealed how a faulty crossing-over within the Y chromosome can lead to an array of sex differentiation disorders and he discovered the cause of the most common reason for male infertility.

Dr. Page’s honors include a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, the journal Science's Top Ten Scientific Advances of the Year (in 1992 and again in 2003), and the 2011 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

About the Louis Levine – Gabriella de Beer Lecture in Genetics

Gabriella de Beer established the Louis Levine – Gabriella de Beer Lecture in Genetics in memory of her husband, Professor Louis Levine, who taught in the Department of Biology and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  A graduate of City College, he earned his PhD in population genetics under the late, great evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky at Columbia University.

Professor Levine’s research focused on population studies of Drosophila and the behavioral genetics of mice.  The event is administered through The City College Fund.  The City College Fund raises money to support programs and activities at CCNY through annual giving, special scholarship projects and fundraising events.

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