Comparative genomics of apoptosis and other eukaryotic programmed cell death pathways
Programmed cell-death is a central biological process that in eukaryotes it evolved into different complex pathways. It acts as a control mechanism of homeostasis in cell number and is triggered by the onset of a coordinated biochemical cascade of events, a process called apoptosis in metazoan species. Although much progress has been made in the recent years, its origins and evolutions remain to be resolved.
The aim of this project is to trace the evolution of the cell-death pathways in eukaryotes and to unravel the evolutionary relationship between caspases and mitochondria, which play a central role in the caspases-dependent apoptotic process. This aim includes tracing the origin of key components of the apoptotic pathways in order to ascertain their eukaryotic or endosymbiotic origin and to determine the evolutionary period in which they were recruited to function in cell-death pathways. Furthermore we will use genomic-context techniques to discover proteins that evolved coordinately with known apoptotic components. Such predictions will be tested experimentally. This project is performed in collaboration with the lab of Dr. Cristina Muñoz-Pinedo (IDIBELL, Barcelona) and is funded through as AICR grant.