Dr. Justin Blumenstiel

Justin Blumenstiel
  • Professor
  • Research Interests: Genomics, Evolutionary Genetics, Epigenetics, Genetic Conflict

Contact Info

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Office: Haworth Hall 7026A


Dr. Justin Blumenstiel's research is focused on understanding how both genetic and epigenetic systems evolve.


Meiosis and sexual reproduction are prevalent across the tree of life, but they can be exploited by genetic parasites in ways that harm the host. I am particularly interested in understanding how this genetic conflict shapes genetic and epigenetic systems. In the lab we study genome evolution, transposable elements, meiosis, RNA silencing, epigenetics, population genetics and the evolution of systems that maintain genome integrity. Some of the questions I am looking to answer: How does epigenetic inheritance of small RNA influence gene expression in natural populations? How do RNA silencing systems evolve in light of off-target effects on gene expression? How do genome stability mechanisms evolve in the face of a changing landscape of DNA damage ? How do mechanisms of meiotic recombination and DNA damage response co-evolve? To answer these questions, I work with different species within the Drosophila genus, including Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila virilis. The lab uses a wide variety of approaches including cytogenetics, bioinformatics, molecular genetics and population genetics. Overall, I hope to integrate the experimental approach within a broader theoretical framework.

Research interests:

  • transposable elements
  • meiosis
  • epigenetics
  • RNA silencing
  • piRNA
  • molecular evolution
  • population genetics
  • genome evolution


Teaching interests:

  • genetics
  • evolution
  • population genetics

Selected Publications

Groth, S B, and J P Blumenstiel. “Horizontal Transfer Can Drive a Greater Transposable Element Load in Large Populations.” Journal Articles. The Journal of Heredity 108, no. 1 (January 1, 2017): 36–44. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esw050.
Blumenstiel, J P, A A Erwin, and L W Hemmer. “What Drives Positive Selection in the Drosophila PiRNA Machinery? The Genomic Autoimmunity Hypothesis.” Journal Articles. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 89, no. 4 (November 23, 2016): 499–512.
Hemmer, L W, and J P Blumenstiel. “Holding It Together: Rapid Evolution and Positive Selection in the Synaptonemal Complex of Drosophila.” Journal Articles. BMC Evolutionary Biology 16 (5, 2016): 91. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-016-0670-8.
Miller, D E, C B Smith, N Y Kazemi, A J Cockrell, A V Arvanitakas, J P Blumenstiel, S L Jaspersen, and R S Hawley. “Whole-Genome Analysis of Individual Meiotic Events in Drosophila Melanogaster Reveals That Noncrossover Gene Conversions Are Insensitive to Interference and the Centromere Effect.” Journal Articles. Genetics 203, no. 1 (1, 2016): 159–71. https://doi.org/10.1534/genetics.115.186486.
Blumenstiel, Justin P. “The Population Genetics of Transposable Elements.” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology, November 2015.
Erwin, A A, M A Galdos, M L Wickersheim, C C Harrison, K D Marr, J M Colicchio, and J P Blumenstiel. “PiRNAs Are Associated with Diverse Transgenerational Effects on Gene and Transposon Expression in a Hybrid Dysgenic Syndrome of D. Virilis.” Journal Articles. PLoS Genetics 11, no. 8 (July 4, 2015): e1005332. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1005332.
Collins, K A, J R Unruh, B D Slaughter, Z Yu, C M Lake, R J Nielsen, K S Box, et al. “Corolla Is a Novel Protein That Contributes to the Architecture of the Synaptonemal Complex of Drosophila.” Journal Articles. Genetics 198, no. 1 (August 1, 2014): 219–28. https://doi.org/10.1534/genetics.114.165290.
Blumenstiel, J P, X Chen, M He, and C M Bergman. “An Age-of-Allele Test of Neutrality for Transposable Element Insertions.” Journal Articles. Genetics 196, no. 2 (February 1, 2014): 523–38. https://doi.org/10.1534/genetics.113.158147.
Blumenstiel, J P. “Whole Genome Sequencing in Drosophila Virilis Identifies Polyphemus, a Recently Activated Tc1-like Transposon with a Possible Role in Hybrid Dysgenesis.” Journal Articles. Mobile DNA 5, no. 1 (February 20, 2014): 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1759-8753-5-6.
Wickersheim, M L, and J P Blumenstiel. “Terminator Oligo Blocking Efficiently Eliminates RRNA from Drosophila Small RNA Sequencing Libraries.” Journal Articles. BioTechniques 55, no. 5 (October 1, 2013): 269–72. https://doi.org/10.2144/000114102.
Miller, D. E., S. Takeo, K. Nandanan, A. Paulson, M. M. Gogol, A. C. Noll, K. N. Walton, et al. “A Whole Chromosome Analysis of Recombination and Gene Conversion in Drosophila Melanogaster.” Journal Articles. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 2, no. 2 (2012): 249–60.
Blumenstiel, J. P. “Evolutionary Dynamics of Transposable Elements in a Small RNA World.” Journal Articles. Trends in Genetics 27, no. 1 (2011): 23–31.
Castillo, D., J. C. Mell, K. S. Box, and J. P. Blumenstiel. “Molecular Evolution under Increasing  Transposable Element Burden in Drosophila: A Speed Limit on the Evolutionary Arms Race.” Journal Articles. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11, no. 258 (2011): 1–16.
Blumenstiel, J. P. “Telomeres: A New Means to an End.” Journal Articles. Current Biology 21, no. 1 (2011): R32–33.
Blumenstiel, J. P., A. C. Noll, J. A. Griffiths, A. G. Perera, K. N. Walton, W. D. Gilliland, R. S. Hawley, and K. Staehling-Hampton. “Identification of EMS-Induced Mutation in Drosophila Melanogaster by Whole Genome Sequencing.” Journal Articles. Genetics 182, no. 1 (2009): 25–32.
Blumenstiel, J. P., R. Fu, W. E. Theurkauf, and R. S. Hawley. “Components of the RNAi Machinery That Mediate Long-Distance Chromosomal Associations Are Dispensable for Meiotic and Early Somatic Homolog Pairing in Drosophila Melanogaster.” Journal Articles. Genetics 180, no. 3 (2008): 1355–65.
Blumenstiel, J. P. “Sperm Competition Can Drive a Male-Biased Mutation Rate.” Journal Articles. The Journal of Theoretical Biology 249, no. 3 (2007): 624–32.
Jeffress, J. K., S. L. Page, S. K. Royer, J. P. Blumenstiel, E. D. Belden, L. K. Anderson, and R. S. Hawley. “The Formation of the Central Element of the Synaptonemal Complex May Occur by Multiple Mechanisms: The Roles of N- and C- Terminal Domains of the Drosophila C(3)G Protein in Mediating Synapsis and  Recombination.” Journal Articles. Genetics 177, no. 4 (2007): 2445–56.
Blumenstiel, J. P., and D. L. Hartl. “Evidence for Maternally Transmitted SiRNA in the Repression of Transposition in Drosophila Virilis.” Journal Articles. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 102 (2005): 15965–13283.
Neafsey, D. E., J. P. Blumenstiel, and D. L. Hartl. “Different Regulatory Mechanisms Underlie Similar  Transposable Element Profiles in Pufferfish and Fruitflies.” Journal Articles. Mol. Biol. Evol. 21, no. 12 (2004): 2310–18.
Jordan, B, A Charest, J F Dowd, J P Blumenstiel, R F Yeh Rf, A Osman, D E Housman, and J E Landers. “Genome Complexity Reduction for SNP Genotyping Analysis.” Journal Articles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99, no. 5 (March 5, 2002): 2942–47. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.261710699.
Blumenstiel, J. P., D. L. Hartl, and E. R. Lozovsky. “Patterns of Insertion and Deletion in Contrasting  Chromatin Domains.” Journal Articles. Mol. Biol. Evol. 19, no. 12 (2002): 2211–25.
Kawasaki, H., G. M. Springett, S. Toki, J. J. Canales, P. Harlan, J. P. Blumenstiel, E. C. Chen, et al. “A Rap Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factor Enriched Highly in the Basal Ganglia.” Journal Articles. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 95 (1998): 13278–83.

Grants & Other Funded Activity

Evolutionary dynamics of collateral gene silencing by piRNA. MCB-1413531. NSF. $598086.00. (1/1/2014 - 12/31/2017). Federal. Status: Funded