Molecular Genetics Unit (Daniel Rokhsar)

Research in the Molecular Genetics Unit has two major themes:

(1) the exploration of deep evolutionary conservation and diversification of metazoan genomes, focusing on critical taxa to illuminate key transitions in the evolution of animals.  We use new approaches for sequencing and analyzing genomes to investigate the evolution of morphological and functional complexity, and

(2) comparative genomics of cephalopods and the development of experimental systems for gene manipulation, visualization, and behavior, to understand how the complex nervous systems of cephalopods emerged independently of vertebrates, and the genomic underpinnings of their capacity for complex behaviors.

Current projects include the sequencing and analysis of the genomes of cephalopods (Albertin et al, Nature 2015) and the direct developing hemichordate Saccoglossus (Simakov et al, Nature 2015); analysis of the genome structure of amphioxus and the starlet sea anemone, and the deep conservation of local and global gene linkage (synteny); and the study of development and behavior of an emerging cephalopod model system, the bobtail squid Euprymna.

Work in our unit combines comparative genomics, population genetic modeling, genetic mapping using high-throughput sequencing, and imaging to characterize the evolution of metazoan complexity.