Our research has these primary aims:
1) To resolve the evolution of important gene families in vertebrates, particularly gene families expressed in the nervous system and in the endocrine system. Thousands of vertebrate gene families expanded in two genome doublings (tetraploidizations) that took place approximately 500 million years ago. These events explain a great deal of the complexity of the vertebrates, and also explain functional overlap for members of many gene families. We use sequence analyses and chromosome comparisons across species to distinguish orthologous and paralogous genes. The results have important implications for our understanding of how functions arise and change during evolution. We are primarily investigating gene families for neuropeptides, receptors, ion channels, and genes involved in vision. We have resolved the evolution of a number of complicated gene families, including the following:
Genes expressed in the eye are being investigated in zebrafish to see how duplicates may differ from each other. We have found several examples how gene duplication results in specialization of the duplicates, for instance in the developmental onset of expression and in the distribution of the products across the retina.
A main project presently is to investigate the evolution of gene families involved in learning and long-term memory. Preliminary results show that many of these gene families received new members in the early vertebrate tetraploidizations, notably glutamate receptors of both the AMPA type and the NMDA type. These findings suggest that much of the machinery for long-term memory existed already in the earliest vertebrates.
2) To characterize the NPY (neuropeptide Y) system of peptides and G-protein-coupled receptors, and their closest relatives, with regard to ligand-receptor interactions and receptor regulation of importance for appetite regulation. Molecular modelling is combined with mutagenesis and expression for functional characterization.
We also investigate how genetic variation in one of the receptor genes correlates with body mass index and obesity. We have found that an appetite-regulating gene displays extensive copy number variation in humans, ranging from 2-8 copies, and that higher copy number correlates with higher body mass index.
Christina Bergqvist, research engineer
Helen Haines, PhD student
Julia E. Pedersen, PhD
Fengjiao Chen, postdoc
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.