Research reveals how viruses manipulate the physiology and ecology of phytoplankton, thus influencing marine nutrient cycles.
Two types of lab E. coli on an agar plate. The green ones are drug resistant and the blue ones are not.
Our research focus
Within the Evolutionary Biology theme, we use a range of interdisciplinary approaches to understand the evolution of biological systems. These approaches include the study of the evolution of antibiotic resistance, how microbes maximise utilisation of environmental resources, how parasites and symbionts evolve to colonise host environments, how organisms fit on to the tree of life and how cellular, biochemistry and genomic characteristics vary across the tree of life. Our research makes use of a range of methods from microfluidic cell manipulation, mathematical modelling, algorithm development, genomic sequencing, phylogenomics, characterisation of sensory proteins,
manipulating endosymbiotic interactions, to characterising organelle function.
By bringing together diverse cellular, genomic and microbial approaches we aim to understand how evolutionary processes shape the diversification of biological systems.
Recent research highlights
Virus reprogrammes ocean plankton
An international collaboration led by Tom Richards has provided startling new insight into how viruses may manipulate the physiology and ecology of phytoplankton and influence marine nutrient cycles. The research team studied the OTV6 virus, revealing that it reprogrammes how phytoplankton obtain nutrients, which affects how they grow and is likely to affect how they absorb carbon dioxide.
Reductive evolution results in loss of glycolysis in microsporidia
Research led by Bryony Williams has revealed how the microsporidia Enterospora canceri has lost glycolysis in the course of its adaptation to an intranuclear life. Indeed, this entire lineage of medically and economically important microsporidian pathogens lacks any obvious intrinsic means of generating energy, making it truly unique amongst eukaryotes.
Antibiotics can boost bacterial reproduction
Research led by Robert Beardmore and Ivana Gudelj has revealed the unexpected consequences of exposing bacteria to antibiotics. Over-and-above increasing resistance, repeated rounds of antibiotic treatment resulted in bacteria that reproduced faster and formed larger populations. Such understanding of the molecular evolution of resistance and the associated trade-offs is essential for the optimisation of treatment strategies for drug-resistant infections.
Unravelling the evolution of the nervous system
Research led by Gaspar Jekely has made use of the marine larvae Platynereisto shed light on the evolution of neuroendocrine cell types and signalling mechanisms. Combining serial section electron microscopy with cellular analysis of neuropeptide signalling, the study provided novel insight into the integration of synaptic and peptidergic signalling.