We aim to unravel the molecular changes underlying major evolutionary transitions. We analyse genomic data with comparative genomics and phylogenetics.
The history of life on Earth shows major evolutionary transitions. These are shifts in which new biological features emerged that dramatically changed the biology of organisms. The endless forms most beautiful we observe today are the result of these revolutions that shaped the biology of the planet. They include the origins of animals, plants, and parasites among many others.
In our lab we aim to unravel the molecular changes underlying these major transitions by analysing genomic data with comparative genomics and phylogenetics. The reconstruction of ancestral genomes and the understanding of the evolution of key gene families are essential to comprehend the genesis of adaptations and biological innovations.
Work in the group generally aligns with one of these themes:
Animal genome evolution
The Animal Kingdom is one the major multicellular lineages of eukaryotes, comprising over 1.6 million described species. We study the genomic changes that took place during the dawn of animals and their subsequent diversification. We infer the patterns of gene gains and losses in key nodes of the Tree of Life of animals.
Plant genome evolution
The origin of land plants shaped Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems. In contrast with animals, the emergence of land plants is not coupled with multicellularity. By comparing plant genomes, we aim to better understand how plants conquered land, and the molecular basis of their resistance to different environmental stressors.
Genomic origins of parasitism
Parasitic worms infect more than a quarter of the human population worldwide at any one time. Most of these infections are caused by nematodes and flatworms. These two animal phyla are not evolutionarily closely related, making them a good model to study convergent evolution. Using comparative genomics we aim to detect convergent patterns of gene gains and losses linked to parasitism, while discovering new potential drug targets.
Gene family evolution
Gene families have evolved in parallel to the anatomies and physiologies of organisms. Their study opens a window to understand how evolution has fine-tuned gene complements and their expression in different morphological contexts. Among the different gene families that we have studied there are homeobox genes, transcription factors that play a major role in development.
A robust Tree of Life is essential to inform comparative analyses. The use of molecules as a marker to infer the phylogenetic relationships has revolutionized our understanding of organismal evolution. Most of our studies focus on the internal phylogeny of animals, as well as the relationships of their closest relatives.
Worming out the origins of parasitism
Royal Society grant to establish new model organisms to further our understanding of the genomic basis of parasitism.
Fighting global worming: understanding parasites using evolutionary genomics
Wellcome Trust funded project, aimed to use comparative genomics to detect recurrent genomic patters associated to the origins of parasitism, as well as finding novel potential drug candidates.
Find out more about the work and publications of the Paps Lab on our website.