Our research focus on understanding how genetic and epigenetic variation in the genome affect the evolution of species, populations, and finally how it translates to an individual’s phenotype.
1. Genome Evolution – How and why do genomes change over time?
The fundamental ingredient of biological evolution is genomic variation. Novel variation arises through spontaneous changes (mutations) to the genome content or structure, referred to as the genome evolution process. We study genome evolution in plants, animals, and fungi using high throughput sequencing technologies to measure genome content, gene expression and epigenetic regulation in a phylogenetic context. We also use functional studies of genes and regulatory DNA to identify causal links between genomic change and cellular and organismal function.
2. Functional Genomics – How do genomes work?
Next generation sequencing technologies have made it easier than ever to assemble and annotate the genes within an organism’s genome. In addition to serving as a storehouse for gene sequences, the genome also regulates and controls gene expression, which is highly dynamic, responsive and coordinated. At CIGENE, we use functional genomic techniques to identify elements within the genome involved in gene regulation (promotors, enhancers etc). Gene-editing with CRISPR is then used to functionally test the regulation and action of specific genes and genomic variants. Associating variation within an individual’s gene regulatory elements to biological variation offers new opportunities to understand genotype-phenotype relationships.
3. Genomic basis of phenotypes – How is variation in genomes translated to phenotypes?
An important goal of our research is to understand how genetic and epigenetic variation in the genome affect an individual’s phenotype. This requires high-resolution phenotype data to be statistically linked with different layers of genomic data, including single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), structural variation in the genome sequence, expression data (e.g. RNAseq data), methylation patterns etc. Knowledge of genotype-phenotype connections makes it possible to do more precise selection for desired traits in animal- and fish breeding schemes. It also improves our understanding of how wild populations adapt to highly different environments and lifestyles. Finally, improved knowledge of how the genome translate to phenotypes is important for understanding the overall biology of an organism, which feeds into diverse research fields including physiology, diseases, nutrition, host-microbiome interactions, behaviour etc.