The student Júlia Portell Montserrat, has been the first winner of the 2014 Catalan Biology Olimpiade. Medals presentation took place the past 21 st February. Júlia Portell participated a few months ago as a student in the 2013 "Joves i Ciencia" program (Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera) doing a stay at the IBE laboratories of E. Casacuberta, D. Martín and X. Franch. Congratulations Júlia!
Going underground was not "The End" but "To be continued"
Subterranean species are usually strongly modified both in their morphology and biology. They are usually though as evolutionary dead ends, confined by limited dispersal and strict ecological requirements. In this work we found that in a Pyrenean subterranean beetle lineage an extreme modification, the progressive reduction of the number of larval instars leading to a non-feeding, inactive larvae that does not moult, evolved only once during the lower Miocene. The diversification rate of the species with a single instar was also double that of the species with two or three instars, and similar to other Coleopteran radiations. Our results imply that a highly modified subterranean lineage can expand its geographic range and diversify over long evolutionary periods. The study is a joint work between the I. Ribera Lab and collaborators of the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona. Ref Article: Cieslak A., Fresneda, J, Ribera I. "Life history specialisation was not an evolutionary dead end in Pyrenean cave beetles." Proc. R. Soc. B, 26 de febrer, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.2978
An interdisciplinary study between molecular and evolutionary biologists explain population differences in intracellular zinc absorption
Drawing from population genomics, ancient DNA research and in vitro cellular zinc uptake experiments, an exciting study related to the micronutrient zinc in Sub-Saharan African populations has just been published in PLOS Genetics. In this study, one of the strongest signals of positive natural selection worldwide was characterized (comparable in population differences to the Duffy malaria resistance allele). This genomic signal had been overlooked so far as it was hidden by the effects of a recombination hotspot. Experimentally, an amino acid replacement in the human intestinal zinc uptake transporter ZIP4 was shown to lead to reduced zinc uptake in the African isoform. Curiously, the same amino acid position harbors rare mutations for a heritable disease of extreme zinc deficiency (Acrodermatitis enteropathica). Now the jury is out for the next step, namely confirming the likely selective force and phenotypes in this adaptive event: Could this be resistance to malaria or to some other pathogen? And in today´s worldwide populations, may this variant have an effect on organismal zinc levels?
The study was led by IBE Researchers from E. Bosch Lab in collaboration with researchers from the Molecular Physiology and Channelopathies Group at DCEXS (UPF).
Ref article: Engelken et al. " Extreme Population Differences in the Human Zinc Transporter ZIP4 (SLC39A4) Are Explained by Positive Selection in Sub-Saharan Africa", (2014) PLOS Genetics, 20 de febrer,
"Gypsies" genes reveal traces of convergent evolution
The Black Death or bubonic plague , the deadliest pandemic in history of Europe, not only killed sixty million people, but also left a mark on the immune system of the inhabitants of the continent, according to a research published in the PNAS. The study, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (UPF -CSIC ) and the Radboud University in the Netherlands, concludes that the deadly epidemics affect the configuration of the human immune system.
The aim of the research was to detect patterns of genetic variation resulting from the selective pressure of an infectious disease, process known as convergent positive selection. It seems to be what have happened in Europe in the fourteenth century, during the outbreak of bubonic plague that only affected the inhabitants of this continent. This infectious process performed on the genome of two ethnic groups sharing the same environment but differed in their baggage genetic: Romanians and Gypsies as can be nowadays seen in some inmune system genes.
Ref article: "Convergent evolution in European and Rroma populations reveals pressure exerted by plague on Toll-like receptors,"2014. Laayouni H., et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ; published ahead of print February 3, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1317723111
Biodiversity and Interactions in Dry Tropical Forests NEW WEBSITE just launched (with cool pictures)
The group on "Herbivore Beetle Evolution" has proudly launched a website that describes one of the projects which focused the group's activity more intensively in the past few years. The project received the support from the Fundación BBVA and this website aims at both publicizing the research and its motivation, but also trying to help raising awareness of a serious conservation problem affecting tropical forests. The site will eventually include the data and results derived from this project making them fully available to the scientific community thanks to an interactive database. http://www.biologiaevolutiva.org/dryforest/
IBE researchers among the finalist candidates of IV Premi Vanguardia de la Ciència
Tomàs Marquès-Bonet i Javier Prado are among the eight finalist candidates to the "IV Premi Vanguardia de la Ciència". The contest has been organized by Group Godó and Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera to release research of excellence carried out in Spain to general public. Winners will be decided both by a Scientific Assessement Comitee and results of public polling. You can vote until Friday 28 th February.
Blue eyed and dark skinned; this could be how European hunter -gatherers looked 7,000 years ago
A complete genome of an individual at the Mesolithic site of the Braña - Arintero (León ) has been recovered. The genome has been baptised as "La Braña 1" and represents the first genome of an European hunter -gatherer recovered. The phenotype of this individual, with dark skin and blue eyes, no longer exists in Europe.
The research leaded by IBE researchers of Lalueza-Fox group in collaboration with other IBE groups and researchers from the Centre for GeoGenetics in Denmark is published today in Nature journal.
Ref Article: Olalde, I. et al. Derived immune and ancestral pigmentation alleles in a 7,000-year-old Mesolithic European. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature12960
Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo awarded a Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council
I. Ruiz-Trillo, has been awarded a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), for the Project entitled " Unravelling the unicellular prehistory of metazoans with functional analyses and single-cell genomics " The grant amounts to 1.967.535,00 euros for a 5-year Project starting 2014. Ruiz-Trillo leads the Multicell Genomes lab at IBE and is one of the 20 researchers awarded with this grant in Spain and of the 312 selected throughout Europe, with a total inversion of 575 M€. The objective of the project is to understand the genetic mechanisms involved in the origin of animal multicellularity. In particular, the project aims to unravel the function of some proteins key to multicellularity present in the closest unicelular relatives of animals.
Genomes of Modern Dogs and Wolves Paint Complicated Picture of Domestication
Dogs and wolves evolved from a common ancestor between 11,000 and 34,000 years ago, before humans transitioned to agricultural societies. The study, published in PLoS Genetics on January 16, 2014, also shows that dogs are more closely related to each other than any of the wolves, regardless of geographic origin. This suggests that part of the genetic overlap observed between some modern dogs and wolves is the result of interbreeding after dog domestication, not a direct line of descent from one group of wolves. The study has been coordinated by scientits of the University of Chicago, with participation of IBE scientitsts O. Ramírez, B. Lorente and T. Marqués Bonet.
Ref. Article: Freedman AH, Gronau I, Schweizer RM, Ortega-Del Vecchyo D, Han E, et al. (2014) Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs. PLoS Genet 10(1): e1004016. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004016
The analysis of the elephant shark genome reveals the origin of vertebrate bones
Researchers from the Tomàs Marquès group at the IBE have participated in the sequencing of the elephant shark genome with the purpose of studying the transition from cartilage to bone calcified bones.
The study, published by Nature journal on Jan 9th, provides also new insights into the understanding and treatment of bone diseases such as osteoporosis
The results of this international study provide a new perspective for understanding the evolution of two fundamental systems for humans: the skeleton and the immune system.
Ref article: Byrappa Venkatesh et al. "Elephant shark genome provides unique insights into gnathostome evolution". Nature. 9/1/2014.