School of Computing


Eukaryotic genomic origins, parasites, and the essential nature of mitochondria

 Understanding the origin and evolution of eukaryotes, their genomes and organelles, are among the most important and exciting challenges facing biology. However, determining ancient gene origins tests methods and data to their limits, and it is unrealistic to expect progress to be easy.

A comparative cross-disciplinary approach involving sophisticated phylogenetics allied with mathematical understanding, offers the best hope of obtaining robust hypotheses for gene and genomic origins. It is also necessary to look beyond the narrow focus of a few model organisms, and to thoughtfully embrace a wider selection of eukaryotic diversity.

Over the past few years, my lab has studied the genomes and mitochondrial homologues (mitosomes and hydrogenosomes) of parasitic protozoa that represent significant health hazards in both the developed and developing world.

These microbial eukaryotes will provide the model systems for investigations which aim to deliver major progress in understanding the importance of lateral gene transfer for eukaryotic genome origins and flux, for understanding how parasites exploit their host cells, and for identifying the essential functions of organelles related to mitochondria, which now appear to be vital components of all eukaryotic cells.