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Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences

Matthew Meselson

Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences

(not taking students)

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Bdelloid Rotifers as a Model System for Investigating the Biology of Aging

We are employing rotifers of Class Bdelloidea, a group of small freshwater invertebrates, as a particularly advantageous model system for investigating the causes and control of aging — the progressive increase in death rate with age that occurs in adult humans and in other animals. Characteristics that make bdelloid rotifers a promising model system for such studies include: (i) parthenogenetic reproduction, assuring genetic homogeneity of progeny; (ii) very low or negligible death rate until egg deposition is completed, followed by an abrupt onset of aging manifested as an exponentially increasing (Gompertzian) death rate; (iii) extreme resistance of pre-aging bdelloids to ionizing radiation (IR) and IR-induced protein oxidation, allowing tests of the relation between aging and oxidative damage of a kind not possible in other organisms; (iv) completion of all somatic cell division before hatching, obviating replicative senescence as a possible complicating factor; (v) ease of culturing and production of even-age populations; (vi) normal mean life span of only a few weeks; (vii) transparency, allowing the use of fluorescence-based assays of reactive oxidative species (ROS) and oxidized protein on individual live animals; and (viii) a soon to be completed annotated genome sequence, allowing us to examine changes in specific gene expression accompanying the onset and progression of aging.

Homologous genetic exchange in bdelloid rotifers

Rotifers of Class Bdelloidea are common freshwater invertebrates whose ancient origin and apparent lack of sexual reproduction have posed the principal challenge to the generally held view that genetic transfer between individuals within a species is essential for its long-term evolutionary success. We have recently found, however, that bdelloid rotifers do engage in homologous genetic transfer within a species (or clade) and are attempting to characterize the mode of such exchange and the population structure within which it occurs.

We welcome applications to join our laboratory from qualified individuals committed to attacking and solving fundamental problems in biology. Applicants should send a CV and contact information for three persons who can provide strong recommendations.


Selected Publications

Laine, V., Sackton, T., & Meselson, M. 2021. Genomic Signature of Sexual Reproduction in the Bdelloid Rotifer Macrotrachella quadricornifera. Genetics (Austin). MCB News

M Meselson (2020). Droplets and Aerosols in the Transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The New England Journal of Medicine PDF

M Meselson. Human Heredity Now and in the Future (2018) European Review,1-5. doi:10.1017/S1062798718000601 PDF

M Meselson (2017) From Charles and Francis Darwin to Richard Nixon: The origin and termination of anti-chemical warfare in Vietnam. PDF

Meselson, M. “From Charles and Francis Darwin to Richard Nixon: The Origin and Termination of Anti-plant Chemical Warfare in Vietnam,” in One Hundred Years of Chemical Warfare: Research, Deployment, Consequences eds. B Friedrich, D Hoffmann, J Renn, F Schmaltz, M Wolf Springer: (2017).

Signorovitch, A, J Hur, E Gladyshev, M Meselson (2016). Evidence for meiotic sex in bdelloid rotifers. Current Biology 26: R754 – R755. PDF

Signorovitch, A, J Hur, E Gladyshev, M Meselson (2015). Allele sharing and evidence for sexuality in a mitochondrial clade of bdelloid rotifers.  Genetics 200: 581-590. https://www.genetics.org/content/200/2/581

Krisko, A., M. Leroy, M. Radman, M. Meselson. (2012). Extreme anti-oxidant protection against ionizing radiation in bdelloid rotifers. PNAS.

Hur, J., K. Van Doninck, M. Mandigo, M. Meselson. (2009). Degenerate Tetraploidy Was Established Before Bdelloid Rotifer Families Diverged. Molecular Biology and Evolution 26:375-383.

Gladyshev, E., M. Meselson (2008). Extraordinary resistance of Bdelloid rotifers to ionizing radiation. PNAS, 105: 5139-5144.

Gladyshev, E., M. Meselson, I. Arkhipova. (2008). Massive horizontal gene transfer in Bdelloid rotifers. Science 320: 1210-1213.

Mark Welch, D.B., J. Mark Welch, M. Meselson (2008). Evidence for degenerate triplody in Bdelloid rotifers. PNAS, 105: 5145-5149.

Meselson, M., D. Mark Welch (2007). Evolution. Stable heterozygosity? Science, 318: 202-203.

Hegreness, M., M. Meselson (2007). What did Sutton See? Thirty years of confusion over the chromosomal basis of Mendelism. Genetics 176: 1939-1944.

Gladyshev, E.A., M. Meselson and I.R. Arkhipova (2007). A deep-branching clade of retrovirus-like retrotransposons in bdelloid rotifers. Gene 390: 136-145.

Gladyshev, E.A. and I.R. Arkhipova (2007). Telomere-associated endonuclease-deficient Penelope-like retroelements in diverse eukaryotes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 104: 9352-9357.

Arkhipova, I.R. (2006). Distribution and phylogeny of Penelope-like elements in eukaryotes. Syst Biol. 55: 875-885.

Arkhipova, I.R. and M. Meselson (2005). Diverse DNA transposons in rotifers of the class Bdelloidea. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 102: 11781-11786.

Arkhipova, I. and M. Meselson (2005). Deleterious transposable elements and the extinction of asexuals. Bioessays 27: 76-85.

Meselson, M. (2004). Explorations in the land of DNA and beyond. Nat Med. 10: 1034-1037.

Mark Welch D.B., M.P.Cummings, D.M Hillis and M. Meselson (2004). Divergent gene copies in the asexual class Bdelloidea (Rotifera) separated before the bdelloid radiation or within bdelloid families. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 101: 1622-1625.

Mark Welch J.L., D.B. Mark Welch and M.Meselson (2004). Cytogenetic evidence for asexual evolution of bdelloid rotifers. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 101: 1618-1621.

Meselson M. (2003). Interview with Matthew Meselson. Bioessays 12: 1236-46.

Mark Welch D.B. and M. Meselson (2003) Oocyte nuclear DNA content and GC proportion in rotifers of the anciently asexsual Class Bdelloidea. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 79: 85-91.

Arkhipova, I. and H. G. Morrison (2001). Three retrotransposon families in the genome of Giardia lamblia: Two telomeric, one dead. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci (USA) 98: 14497-14502.

Mark Welch, D. and M. Meselson. (2001). Rates of nucleotide substitution in sexual and anciently asexual rotifers. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci (USA) 98: 6720-6724.

Mark Welch, D. and M. Meselson.(2001). A survey of introns in three genes of rotifers. Hydrobiologia 446/447: 333-336.

Mark Welch, D. (2000). Evidence from a protein-coding gene that acanthocephalans are rotifers. Invertebrate Biology 119: 17-26.

Arkhipova, I. and M. Meselson. (2000). Transposable elements in sexual and ancient asexual taxa. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 97: 14473-14477.

Mark Welch, D. and M. Meselson. (2000). Evidence for the evolution of bdelloid rotifers without sexual recombination or genetic exchange. Science 288: 1211-1215.

Mark Welch, J. and M. Meselson. (1998). Karyotypes of bdelloid rotifers from three families. Hydrobiologia 387/388: 403 – 407.