• Question: why do you use computers to understand how sex chromosome work?

    Asked by Demetriana to Melissa on 26 Apr 2016. This question was also asked by Nickolas.
    • Photo: Melissa Wilson Sayres

      Melissa Wilson Sayres answered on 26 Apr 2016:

      I use computers to understand DNA sequence differences, and I primarily focus on the sex chromosomes, as well as on sex-biased mutation rates. There are many ways for science to work, and one of the growing ways is to analyze differences and similarities in DNA sequences. Typically people now use computers to analyze DNA because there is SO MUCH DATA. Previously you could look at a tens or hundreds of DNA bases (A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s), but now I analyze millions of them across multiple species, so it isn’t really possible to do by hand. I am especially interested in understand how the sex chromosomes in mammals have changed over time, so we analyze DNA sequences on the non-sex chromosomes (autosomes), X chromosome, Y chromosome, and mtDNA together for comparisons. Seeing the relative changes on each of these regions can tell us something about each region, but also about the evolutionary forces acting on the population.