Evolutionary functional genomics lab

Dr Araxi Urrutia, University of Bath

research interests

Research Interests


In a broad sense I am interested in how genes and genomes evolve through time and how these changes an help us better understand the function and interaction between genes during normal development/adult life and disease states. To address these issues I use bioinformatics tools to analyse large scale genomic and functional data for a wide range of species including mammals and other metazoans, plants, fungi and bacteria.

My current research addresses the following main questions: 1) How alternative splicing has evolved through time and what is the role of alternative splicing in normal and disease states? 2) What are the genomic bases of the evolution of complex phenotypes and behaviour in mammalian and avian systems and other eukaryotic taxa? 3) What factors account for gene and genome evolution in plants and drosophila? Details of some of past and current research questions follow:


What are the genomic basis of complex phenotypes?

All traits of organisms are either directly determined by genes or by the interaction of environmental factors with our genomic information. Although great progress has been made in understanding the genomic basis of traits determined by one or few genes, the molecular basis of complex phenotypes to which many genes contribute remain poorly understood. So far we have uncovered genomic signatures including changes in amino acid composition and gene family size associated with the evolution of larger brains in some mammalian lineages. Current research aims to better understand the genomic basis of brain morphology evolution as well as that of other complex traits including social dominance, mating system behaviour and adaptation to high altitude. For this we analyse both publicly available transcriptome profiling datasets as well as generating our own transcriptome data from the lab and from field work.


What is the role of alternative splicing in transcript diversification and the evolution of complex traits?

The sequencing of the human genome in 2001 revealed a surprisingly low number of genes. Ever since, alternative splicing, a process whereby a single gene encodes more than one protein has been a prime candidate to produce additional diversity of proteins needed for the development and physiological processes in a complex organism like humans. So far we have shown that alternative splicing has expanded along side the evolution of new cell types, a common proxy for organism complexity. In addition, we have also shown a pattern of altered alternative splicing patterns in cancer tissues, which affects oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes differently. Continuing work addresses the functional importance of increased alternative splicing in eukaryotic genomes.


If you are interested in collaborating with us or would like to join the lab please get in touch!





research interests