Reconstructing the Genome of the Last Eukaryote Common Ancestor
Cellular life can be divided into two forms: simple (prokaryotic) cells lacking internal membranes and devoid of nuclei; and complex (eukaryotic) cells with internal membranous organelles including mitochondria and nuclei. The vast majority of the diversity of complex (eukaryotic) life is unicellular, meaning that only a fraction of eukaryotic diversity is represented by multicellular plants, animals, and fungi. The evolution of the unicellular eukaryotes, therefore, represents THE major evolutionary transition in the history of life. And understanding this transition is perhaps the major goal in evolutionary cell biology. To better understand this transition, a preliminary dataset representing the genomic repertoire of the Last Eukaryote Common Ancestor (LECA) has been reconstructed. These data suggest that LECA contained many genes, making it more complex than many extant lineages.
At the Wissenschaftskolleg, I will use this dataset to establish the theoretical bases and collaborative connections that will form the foundation of my career as an independent investigator. I will analyze the LECA dataset to identify the most promising genes for future study by:
- Phylogenetic screening: to identify unstudied/unrecognized ancient proteins
- Phenotypic screening: to identify phenotype-associated ancient proteins
- Co-gain/Co-loss analysis: to identify putative interacting proteins
It is practically impossible for a single lab to investigate these data effectively; therefore, analyzing the LECA data at the Wissenschaftskolleg, I will have the opportunity to establish collaborative investigations with scientists in Europe and around the world. These interdisciplinary collaborations at the intersection of cell biology and evolution will begin to uncover the molecular details that explain the evolution of complexity and diversity.
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Munoz-Gomez, S., Slamovits, C., Dacks, J. B., Spencer, K. D., Baier, K. A., and Wideman, J. G. (2015). "Ancient homology of the mitochondrial contact site and cristae organizing system points to an endosymbiotic origin of mitochondrial cristae." Current Biology 25: 1489-1495.
Wideman, J. G., Gawryluk, R. M. R., Gray, M. W., and Dacks, J. B. (2013). "The ancient and widespread nature of the ER-mitochondria encounter structure." Molecular Biology and Evolution 30, 9: 2044-2049.