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J. Spencer Johnston

Johnston, J. Spencer
Undergraduate Education
B.S. Zoology, University of Washington
Graduate Education
University of Texas, Austin, Texas, Drosophila genetics, NIH Fellow
Ph.D. Genetics, University of Arizona

Professional Summary

J. Spencer Johnston, Ph.D. is a professor in the Texas A&M University Department of Entomology. His teaching and research interests lie in the field of Genomics. His work addresses an array of questions, such as the reason for, and the consequences of, orders of magnitude differences in the total number of DNA building blocks (A, T, G, and C nucleotide) in different species. Why do we have the same total amount of DNA as a cockroach, while grasshoppers have 8 times that amount and some flies have only 5%. The answer is not in the number of genes, which is roughly similar in all higher life forms.. Other questions addressed include the genomic basis of life history traits including that of social insects such as the honey bee. Also addressed are questions related to human health. Why does one insect, such as the body louse, vector serious human diseases while a close relatives, such as head lice, does not. Last his genomics research provides details on genomes of pest insects that opens the door to new environmentally friendly control of pest insects. His work has been cited in peer-reviewed publications over 14,000 times.

Research Areas of Expertise

Genome size estimation, generation of whole and chromosome level genomes, genetics of populations of honey bees and of pest insect species.

Selected Publications

Driscoll, T.P., Verhoeve, V.I., Gillespie, J.J., Johnston, J.S., Guillotte, M.L., Rennoll-Bankert, K.E…. & Azad, A.F. (2020). A chromosome-level assembly of the cat flea genome uncovers rampant gene duplication and genome size plasticity. BMC Biology 18(1), 1-19.

Johnston, J. S., A. Bernardini, & C.E. Hjelmen. (2019). Genome size estimation and quantitative cytogenetics in insects. In Insect Genomics (pp. 15-26). Humana Press, New York, NY. Matthews, B. J. et. al. (2018). Improved reference genome of Aedes aegypti informs arbovirus vector control. Nature, 563(7732), 501-507.

Johnston, J.S., M. Schoener, & D.P. McMahon. (2013). DNA underreplication in the majority of nuclei in the Drosophila melanogaster thorax: evidence from Suur and flow cytometry. Journal of Molecular Biology Research, 3(1), 47-54.

Weinstock G.M., et.al. (2006). Insights into social insects from the genome of the honeybee Apis mellifera. Nature 443(7114): 931-949. Google Scholar: Most cited (insect and arthropod) this decade.