Molecular Evolution Group


Group Leader
Jorge Vieira


Do we know the genetic basis of phenotypic variation in general or for a few model species only?

Understanding the genetic basis of phenotypic variation is one of the main goals of Biology. Most studies regarding this issue have been performed in model species, such as D. melanogaster. Therefore, it is unclear whether the results obtained for model species can be generalized to other distantly related species.

The work the Molecular Evolution group has been performing, since 2000, with D. americana, shows that this species is suitable for comparative studies. This species has been diverging from D. melanogaster for about 40 million years, is easy to collect, shows a high effective population size (and thus large amount of nucleotide polymorphism), large amount of phenotypic variation, and low levels of population structure. D. americana can be found in the Central and Eastern regions of the United States from the South (Texas to the states around the Gulf of Mexico) to the North of the country (from Montana to Maine) and thus local populations are exposed to very different environments. The genome sequence of two strains of D. americana has been determined and is being annotated. A collection of about 70 largely isogenic D. americana reference strains is being created, as well as a polymorphism database for this species. For this species, markers equally spaced, covering the whole genome have been developed. Therefore, we are now in a good position to make substantial progress on the generality of the genetic basis of phenotypic variation.

Presently, the Molecular Evolution group is devoting most of its research time to the identification of variants that explain lifespan differences in D. americana natural populations. Nevertheless, we are also performing work on the phenotypic traits, size, cold resistance, developmental time and diapause. Time allowing, I like to perform collaborative work with other groups, as evidenced by my publication list.

Motivated Post-Doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students are wellcome. If you would like to explore the possibility of spending some time with the Molecular Evolution group, please send me an e-mail (jbvieira<removethis>