Department of Entomology


Peter Atkinsonucr entomology

Professor of Genetics 
Location: 2234A Genomics
Tel: (951) 827-4782
Fax: (951) 827-5517
E-mail: peter.atkinson@ucr.edu


BSc Genetics 1979
University of Melbourne, Australia
PhD Genetics 1986
University of Melbourne, Australia

Positions and Honors

2001-2003 Associate Director, UCR Genomics Institute.
2003 Interim Director, UCR Genomics Institute.
2004 Associate Director, UCR Institute for Integrative Genome Biology
2006-2014 Director, UCR Center for Disease Vectors Research
2008-2012 Director, Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology Graduate Program
2009 Pacific Branch ESA Achievement Award in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology or Toxicology
2012-2013 Associate Dean, Life Sciences, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
2013-2017 Divisional Dean, Life Sciences, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
1999-2014 Editorial Board, Insect Molecular Biology
1999- Editorial Board, Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
1999- Editorial Board, Mobile DNA

Research Areas

My research focuses on developing sustainable genetic control strategies for environmentally-friendly control of medically and agriculturally important insect pest species. My initial work led to the discovery and development of new transposable elements which enabled the genetic transformation of insects other than Drosophila to occur. I then pursued further analysis of one of these transposable elements, a member of the hAT transposable element family called Hermes, with the aim being to understand what we could learn from its function through its structure. During the course of this study we widened our scope to examine, using genomics and bioinformatics, the structure of genomes from pest insects. We also became interested in how active insect transposable elements interact with their host genomes through the production of piRNAs by the host, which serve to silence both transposons and viruses. Since the advent of CRISPR/Cas9-based technologies we have shifted our emphasis to using this technology to quickly develop genetic control platforms in pest insects. While my historical and present emphasis remains on mosquitoes, we have recently used our expertise in insect embryo microinjection techniques to develop, with Dr. Linda Walling’s laboratory at UC Riverside, genetic technologies in a global agricultural pest, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci and are now extending these approaches to other sap-feeding insect pest species such as psyllids and sharpshooters. We are establishing novel transposable element-based gene and enhancer traps in pest insects and are further exploring the piRNA pathway of the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus with specific interest in how it may inactivate viruses in these mosquitoes. We are also employing genetic recombination data to identify genomic targets for gene drive strategies in the mosquito Anopheles coluzzii which is a major vector of the pathogen responsible for human malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

Publications (selected)

Papanicalaou, A., et al. 2016. The whole genome sequence of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann), reveals insights into the biology and adaptive evolution of a highly invasive pest species. Genome Biology. 17(1): 192.

Atkinson, P. W. 2015. hAT Transposable Elements, in “Mobile DNA III” editor-in-chief, Craig, N.L. ASM Press, Washington, D. C. p775-802, 1321 pp

Hickman, A.B., Ewis, E.H., Li, X., Knapp, J.A., Laver, T., Doss, A.L.,Tolun, G, Steven A.C., Grishaev, A., Bax, A., Atkinson, P.W., Craig, N.L., Dyda, F. 2014 Structural Basis for Transposon End Recognition by Hermes, an Octameric hAT DNA Transposase from Musca domestica. Cell. 158:353-367.

Wright, J. A., R. C. Smith, X. Li, N. L. Craig and P. W. Atkinson 2013. IPB7 transposase behavior in Drosophila melanogaster and Aedes aegypti. Insect Biochem. Mol Biol. 43. 899-906.

Woodward, L. E., X. Li, N. Malani, A. Kaja, R. H. Hice, P. W. Atkinson, F. D. Bushman, N. L. Craig, M. H. Wilson, (2012). Comparative analysis of the recently discovered hAT transposon TcBuster in human cells. PLoS One 7:e42666. PMD: 23166581.

Li, X., H. Ewis, R. H. Hice, N. Malani, N. Parker, L. Zhou, C. Feshotte, F. D. Bushman, P. W. Atkinson, N. L. Craig 2013. A resurrected mammalian hAT transposable element and a closely related insect element are highly active in human cell culture. Proc Natl. Acad. Sci USA 110: E487-487. PMD: 23091042.

Arensburger, P., R. H. Hice, J. A. Wright, N. L. Craig, P. W. Atkinson 2011. The mosquito Aedes aegypti has a large genome size and high transposable element load but contains a low proportion of transposon-specific piRNAs. BMC Genomics 12: doi.1186/1471-2164-12-606. PMD: 22171608.

Kim, Y.-J., R. H. Hice, D. A. O’Brochta, P. W. Atkinson 2011. DNA sequence requirements for hobo transposable element transposition in Drosophila. Genetica 139: 985-997.

Khalon, A. S., R. H. Hice, D. A. O’Brochta, P. W. Atkinson 2011. DNA binding activities of the Herves transposase from the mosquito Anopheles gambiae. Mobile DNA 2(1):9.

Arensburger, P, R. H. Hice, L. Zhou, R. C. Smith, A. C. Tom, J. A. Wright, J. Knapp, D. A. O’Brochta, N. L. Craig, P. W. Atkinson 2011. Phylogenetic and functional characterization of the hAT transposon superfamily. Genetics 188: 45-57.

Arensburger P.et al., 2010. Sequencing of Culex quinquefasciatus establishes a platform for mosquito comparative genomics. Science 330. 86-88.

Atkinson, P.W. 2010. Insect transformation for use in control. Comprehensive Insect Molecular Science. Editors: L. I. Gilbert and S. S. Gill. Elsevier. The Netherlands. 5 published pages

Bartholomay, L.C,. et al. 2010. Pathogenomics of Culex quinquefasciatus and meta-analysis of infection responses to diverse pathogens. Science 330. 88-90.

Smith, R. C, P. W. Atkinson 2010. Mobility properties of the Hermes transposable element in transgenic lines of Aedes aegypti. Genetica July 3.

Atkinson, P. W. (editor). 2010. Vector Biology, Ecology and Control. Springer. The Netherlands. 260p.

O’Brochta, D. A., C. D. Stosic, K. Pillit, R. A. Subramanian, R. H. Hice, P. W. Atkinson 2009. Transpositionally active episomal hAT elements. BMC Mol. Biol. 10: 108.

Subramanian, R. A., L. A. Cathcart, E. S. Krafsur, P. W. Atkinson, D. A. O’Brochta 2009. Hermes transposon distribution in Musca domestica. J. Hered. 100: 473-480

Arensburger, P., Atkinson, P.W. 2009. Genomics. Encyclopedia of Insects. Editors: V. H. Resh and R. T Carde. Elsevier. The Netherlands. p.419-424.

Salvemini, M., Robertson, M., Aronson, B., Atkinson, P., Polito, L.C., Saccone, G. 2009. Ceratitis capitata transformer-2 gene is required to establish and maintain the autoregulation of Cctra, the master gene for female sex regulation. Int J Dev Biol. 53:109-120.

Lawson, D., Arensburger, P., Atkinson, P., Besansky, N.J., Bruggner, R.V., Butler, R., Campbell, K.S., Christophides, G.K., Christley, S., Dialynas, E., Hammond, M., Hill, C.A., Konopinski, N., Lobo, N.F., MacCallum, R.M., Madey, G., Megy, K., Meyer, J., Redmond, R., Severson, D.W., Stinsen, E.O., Topalis, P., Birney, E., Gelbart, W.M., Kafatos, F.C., Louis, C., Collins, F.H. 2009. VectorBase: a data resource for invertebrate vector genomics. Nucleic Acids Res. 37 (Database issue): p.D583-7.

Cruz, J., Sieglaff, D.H., Arensburger, P., Atkinson, P.W., Raikhel, A.S. 2009. Nuclear Receptors in the mosquito Aedes aegypti: annotation, hormonal regulation and expression profiling. FEBS J. 276: 5 p 1233-54.

Ray, D.A., Feschotte, C., Pagan, H.J., Smith, J.D., Pritham, E.J., Arensburger, P., Atkinson, P.W., Craig, N.L. 2008. Multiple waves of recent DNA transposon activity in the bat Myotis lucifugus. Genome Research. 18:717-728.

Tribolium Genome Sequencing Consortium 2008. The genome of the model beetle and pest Tribolium castanuem. Nature. 452:949-55.

Lawson, D., Arensburger, P., Atkinson, P., Besansky, N.J., Bruggner, R.V., Butler, R., Campbell, K.S., Christophides, G.K., Christley, S., Dialynas, E., Emmert, D., Hammond, M., Hill, C.A., Kennedy, R.C., Lobo, N.F., MacCallum, M.R., Madey, G., Megy, K., Redmond, K., Russo, S., Severson, D.W., Stinson, E.O., Topalis, P., Zdobnov, E.M., Birney, E., Gelbart, W.M., Kafatos, F.C., Louis, C., Collins, F.H. 2007. VectorBase: a home for invertebrate vectors of human pathogens. Nucl. Acids. Res. Vol. 35: (Database Issue): D503-D505.

Subramanian, R. A., P. Arensburger, P. W. Atkinson and D. A. O’Brochta. (2007). Transposable element dynamics of the hAT element Herves in the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae s.s. Genetics. 176:2477-2487.

Nene, V., J. R. Wortman, D. Lawson, B. Haas, C. Kodira, Z. Tu, B. Loftus, Z. Xi, K. Megy, M. Grabherr, Q. Ren, E. M. Zdobnov, N. F. Lobo, K. S. Campbell, S. E. Brown, M. F. Bonaldo, J. Zhu, S. P. Sinkins et al., (2007). Genome sequence of Aedes aegypti, a major arbovirus vector. Science 316:1718-1723.

Smith, R. C., M. F. Walter, R. H. Hice, D. A. O’Brochta and P. W. Atkinson (2007). Testes-specific expression of the ß2 tubulin promoter of Aedes aegypti and its application as a genetic sex-separation marker. Insect Mol. Biol. 16:61-71.

O’Brochta, D. A., Subramanian, R. A., Orsetti, J., Peckham, E., Nolan, N., Arensburger, P., Atkinson, P. W. and J. D. Charlwood. (2006). hAT element population genetics in Anopheles gambiae s.l. in Mozambique. Genetica 127:185-198.

Wang, X. H., R. Aliyari, . X. Li, H. W. Li, K. Kim, R. Carthew, P. Atkinson, and S. W. Ding (2006). RNA interference directs innate immunity in viruses in adult Drosophila. Science 312:452-454.

O'Brochta, D.A., Subramanian, R.A., Orsetti, J., Peckham, E., Nolan, N., Arensburger, P., Atkinson, P.W., Charlwood, J.D. 2006. hAT element population genetics in Anopheles gambiae s.l. in Mozambique. Genetica. 127:185-198.

Arensburger, P., Kim, Y., Orsetti, J., Aluvihare, C., O'Brochta, D.A., Atkinson, P.W. 2005. An Active Transposable Element, Herves, from the African malaria Plasmodium. Genetics. 169:697-708.

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