Programming for Evolutionary Biology in Colombia

Many greetings from Bogota, where we are currently holding our first Programming for Evolutionary Biology course in the Americas. Clara Isabel Bermúdez Santana and her TAs Cristian, Alejandro, and Diego, as well as her students from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia are super welcoming hosts for us!

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Special journal issue on Human Evolution

Aida Andres and I have put together a special journal issue with papers on human evolution for the journal Current Opinion in Genetics & Development. Inviting the authors for 19 articles, editing, and coordinating this special issue has been an exciting experience and I’m happy to see that our special issue is now published. Please enjoy a fascinating collection of papers. You can find a summary of all papers in our Editorial.

Thanks a lot to everybody who has contributed to this issue!

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Paper on phased human genomes published

In our paper Hoehe et al. on “Multiple haplotype-resolved genomes reveal population patterns of gene and protein diplotypes” published in Nature Communications we describe the extent of sequence variation that exists between the two alleles of human individuals. Surprisingly, many genes in our genome harbor sequence variants that can manifest in the amino acid sequence, thus increase the repertoire of proteins that can be expressed in human cells.

This project was lead by Dr. Margret Hoehe from the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany.

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BioVis – Design contest on RNA secondary structure visualization

When we compared the secondary structures of the non-coding RNA HAR1 between primate species and wanted to represent our results at Bia’s poster at the ISMB conference this year, we realized that it is quite challenging to find a good visualization that supports a comparison between structures. In a pub in Boston, Jan Aerts, Bia Walter, Henrike Indrischek, and I sketched this challenge on a napkin. Gratefully, Ryo Sakai and Eamonn Maguire developed our idea into the official design contest for the BioVis conference 2015 in Dublin. We are very excited to see what solutions the contestants will come up with.

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Sandra and Lisa finished their Master theses

Sandra and Lisa, both turned their projects into very interesting and well-conducted Masters theses. Sandra worked on the “Evolutionary comparison of KAP1 binding sites between humans and chimpanzees” and Lisa on the “Functional characterization of ZNF542 and ZEB2 in primates”. The results of both projects gave us new insights in functional differences between TF genes of humans and other primates.

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Our paper on the evolution of gene regulatory factors is accepted

Our review paper on “The role of gene regulatory factors in the evolutionary history of humans” is accepted for publication in a special issue on Human Evolution of the journal Current Opinion in Genetics & Development. In our manuscript we review how especially transcription factor and long non-coding RNA genes have changed during human evolution, comparing modern humans to other primates, to archaic humans, and comparing human populations. We provide examples of gene regulatory factors with signs of positive selection and speculate on their impact on shaping human phenotypes.

Congratulations, Alvaro, Bia, and Sabina to a wonderful paper!

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Received funding for our speciation research

The Volkswagen Foundation awarded us funding for our collaborative work on Chromosomal Speciation within their framework “Support for Europe”. In our project Genomic architecture of speciation: the role of chromosomal rearrangements” Rui Faria’s and our group will use Next Generation Sequencing data from primates and marine gastropodes to investigate the impact of rearrangements in accelerating genome-wide divergence during speciation under different geographic  scenarios  and across two very distinct taxonomic groups.

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Rohit won the Best Poster prize

Rohit won the prize for the best poster at the Next Generation Sequencing Conference (NGS) 2014 in Barcelona. His hand-drawn poster shows his work on the lacerta genome. Congrats to an awesome poster!

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Funding for lncRNA evolution project

We got our grant proposal on “Long Non-Coding RNAs in Primate Brain Evolution” awarded. It is funded within the framework of the SPP 1738 “Emerging Roles of Non-coding RNAs in Nervous System Development, Plasticity and Disease”.

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Sabina finished her Masters Thesis

Sabina finished her thesis on the “Role of random monoallelically expressed genes in the
development of Alzheimer’s disease”. Congratulations to an excellent thesis work!

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