Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Malik, Harmit S.
Location Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Primary Field Genetics
Secondary Field Evolutionary Biology
 Election Citation
Malik studies how conflicts (or ?molecular arms races?) in our genetics drive innovation and the evolution of biology and disease.
 Research Interests
Harmit Malik studies the causes and consequences of genetic conflicts that take place between different genomes (e.g., host-virus interactions, mitochondrial conflicts with nuclear genomes) or between components of the same genome (e.g., chromosomal competition at centromeric regions). He is interested in understanding these "molecular arms races" and how they drive recurrent genetic innovation, from the perspective of both evolutionary biology and human disease. Malik and his colleagues have used an evolutionary lens to dissect and discover both primate antiviral as well as viral adaptation strategies. By taking advantage of viral 'fossil' in animal genomes and intense episodes of ancient host gene adaptation, his work has helped found the field of Paleovirology. His lab has been able to describe functional outcomes of ancient host-virus arms races by resurrecting both host and viral proteins from the evolutionary record. A significant area of research in the Malik lab is the study of rapid evolution in genes involved in essential cellular processes such as chromosome segregation and mitochondrial biology. Together with Steven Henikoff, he proposed the 'centromere-drive' model, which posits that unusual genetic conflicts during meiosis drive the unexpectedly rapid evolution of centromeric DNA and proteins, which in turn may provide a basis of postzygotic reproductive isolation between recently diverged species. His work has received significant accolades for him and his lab members, many of whom run thriving independent research labs focused on the study of genetic conflicts.

 
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