CBCB Seminar

February 13, 2023
4:00 PM

Ammon-Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation (BPI) Building
Conference Room 140

Biochemical and structural insights to marine viral phenotype from metagenomic sequence data

Rachel Keown

Graduate Student and CBB T32 Fellow, Bioinformatics Data Science, UD

Viruses are the most abundant and diverse biological entities on the planet and constitute a
significant proportion of the genetic diversity on Earth. Most of this diversity is not represented
by isolated viral-host systems and has only been observed through sequencing of viral
metagenomes (viromes) from environmental samples. Viromes provide snapshots of viral
genetic potential, a wealth of information on viral community ecology, and opportunities for
exploring the biochemistry of novel viral enzymes. The in vitro biochemical phenotypes of 48
novel viral family A DNA polymerases (PolA) spanning a broad representation of known
diversity were explored, testing hypothesized differences in biochemistry predicted by genotypic
characteristics. Intriguingly, two notable PolAs demonstrated innate DNA strand displacement
activity at high enzyme concentration. Polymerases with structural characteristics hypothesized
for obligately lytic phages did not show strand displacement activity. Biochemical data
elucidated from this study expands our understanding of the biological and ecological behavior
of unknown viruses.
Rachel Keown earned an M.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Delaware and a
B.S. in Molecular Biology from Arcadia University. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in
Bioinformatics under the supervision of Dr. Shawn Polson.