We are currently addressing four major lines of research. See Select Publications for representative papers.
(1) What are the primordial mechanisms used to generate an immune response? How is the genome involved in creating and diversifying such a response? And how did the adaptive and innate arms of the immune system co-evolve and become functionally interdigitated? How can we incorporate genomic approaches to address major problems with regard to the immunological arms race? How did the most primordial vertebrate adaptive immune systems evolve? What is the gene repertoire and genomic organization involved in such primordial systems, such as represented by the jawless vertebrates?
(2) Are there parallels between global developmental genome rearrangements seen in the jawless vertebrates and the programmed genome rearrangements in their immune system (variable lymphocyte receptors, VLRs)? How are these mechanisms taking place at the cellular and molecular levels? Is there an evolutionary rationale for global programmed genome rearrangement?
(3) How have changes in genomic architecture and organization contributed to differences in body plans that we see amongst all metazoan species? What are the parallels between such evolutionary changes and disease manifestation? Can we use genomic tools to identify key genes that may have contributed to the water-land transition?
(4) How has vertebrate chitin evolved? What are the molecular evolutionary trends in the evolution of vertebrate chitin synthases? How is vertebrate chitin utilized physiologically since it does not form hard, horny structures? Can vertebrate chitin be used in biotechnology? Are there other “genes left in the water” that we can identify using comparative genomics approaches?