[Seminar] "Why we should study protists: what the understudied majority eukaryotes can tell us about eukaryotic evolution and the origin of animals" by Dr. Michelle Leger
Speaker: Dr. Michelle Leger, Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF) [Link]
Title: Why we should study protists: what the understudied majority eukaryotes can tell us about eukaryotic evolution and the origin of animals
The vast majority of eukaryotic life is comprised of protists – primarily microbial organisms that are taxonomically, morphologically and ecologically diverse. However, most of our knowledge of eukaryotic molecular and cell biology is derived from studies of plants, animals and fungi – primarily macroscopic and multicellular, and representing only 2 of at least 8 currently recognized eukaryotic supergroups. In this seminar, I will discuss my research on understudied protists, highlighting how these organisms can help us to understand major topics in eukaryotic evolution: mitochondrial evolution and the origin of animals.
Mitochondria are ancestrally present in all known living eukaryotes, and perform essential roles in energy generation, enzymatic cofactor assembly, and lipid and amino acid biosynthesis. I will outline how diverse microbial anaerobes have changed our understanding of mitochondrial origins, evolution and function across eukaryotes.
The origin of animals was a major evolutionary transition that gave rise to an enormously successful and morphologically diverse group of organisms, thanks to innovations in cellular signaling, differentiation, and regulation. My current research focuses on protists closely related to animals. I will discuss how studying these organisms has shed light on the microbial ancestors of animals, and the molecular innovations that made it possible for animals to evolve.