In our group we study the molecular mechanisms that facilitate adaptation to changing environments and the limits of adaptation using a combination of computational approaches, experimental evolution and multi-omics. Our research lies on the interface of evolutionary biology, systems biology and structural biology.  For most of our experiments we use as a model organism a bacterium isolated from Antarctica.

Which mechanisms facilitate adaptation to environmental changes?

We study the role of copy number changes affecting single genes or larger genomic regions on facilitating adaptation to environmental changes. We do so by exposing bacteria to environmental changes (e.g.: novel carbon sources) and observing how adaptations originate in real-​time in the laboratory by means of experimental evolution using large bacterial populations. To investigate the underlying genetic changes we sequence the genome of adapted bacterial clones. For these studies we use a cold-adapted bacterium that has two chromosomes.

We also study how temperature adaptation influences protein evolvability. To do so we subject isofunctional proteins isolated from organisms adapted to different temperatures (psychrophilic, mesohpilic), which have different structural properties in terms of stability and flexibility, to parallel directed evolution to gain a new enzymatic function (resistance to novel antibiotics).

What limits adaptation to high temperatures?

We study what limits the extension of the upper thermal tolerance of organisms beyond a certain temperature, a fundamental question given the ongoing global warming. To do so we use experimental evolution to adapt populations of bacteria to high temperatures. Then, we use whole genome sequencing to identify the genomic basis of adaptation.

How bacteria respond to temperature changes?

Temperature has a major effect on organisms. It affects, among others, the rates of their chemical reactions, their growth and reproduction. To study how bacteria respond to temperature changes we track changes in gene expression using transcriptomics in different bacterial strains grown at different temperatures.

Open Positions

Master students

We are looking for motivated Master students to join our group. If you are interested in our research, please contact Macarena Toll Riera. 

PhD or Postdoctoral positions

If you are interested in a PhD or postdoctoral position in our group, please contact Macarena Toll Riera with your CV and a brief description of your research interests. Contact us several months in advance to explore together possible funding sources.

Find here information on the previous production and lab members of Toll Riera Lab.

Principal investigator

Macarena Toll-Riera

Toll-Riera, Macarena
Ramón y Cajal Researcher

Current members

Gleb Ebert

Ebert, Gleb
Predoctoral researcher from ETH Zurich