Associate Professor of Biology
MAJOR AREA: Molecular Evolution and Evolutionary Genomics
OFFICE: 431 Engineering Research Building
LAB:: 483 and 484 Engineering Research Building
Ph.D. Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona (Barcelona) Spain (1996)
My current work focuses on the origin of new genes, new functions, and their role in genome evolution, adaptation, and species differences. The benefits of new gene acquisition for the organisms have been enumerated since the 60ís, but, only recently, molecular evidence has begun to accumulate for benefits so large that the newly acquired genes become fixed in all the individuals of the species and evolve further under positive selection. One of my main interests is the understanding of the patterns in the generation of new gene copies and functions with respect to sex chromosomes because this is of primary significance to explaining sexual dimorphism, sex chromosome evolution, and adaptation. I am using Drosophila as the main model system but I am interested in the study of the patterns across taxa to uncover the generality of the phenomenon of gene relocation with respect to sex chromosomes. I am extending the analysis to other genomes (i.e. Humans, C. elegans, and Anopheles gambiae). Comparison of these data should yield invaluable information on duplicates and on the correlation between tissue expression, genome location, and gene structure.
Powerful tools exist now to study the dynamics and consequences of new gene evolution. First, nearly complete genome sequences of different species provide exceptional information (gene sequence, gene location and flanking sequences) for studying the appearance of new genes by different mechanisms. Second, the known mechanism of retroposition provides information on the directionality of the generation of new genes. Finally, the functional characterization of these new genes can be achieved through:  sequence analyses and molecular evolutionary studies,  expression profile studies (using EST, cDNA libraries and microarray information),  promoter analyses and  the use of gene targeting techniques.