Research Groups

Cell biology and Biotechnology

Nacho Maeso
Z2 Springboard group: Information, Interpretation and Identity in the Evolution of Gene Regulation
Nacho Maeso
Principal Investigator

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Biological entities, whether proteins, blue whales, sensory organs or cis-regulatory elements are continuously interacting with other structures, establishing complex networks through which biological information is exchanged. These interaction networks are assembled and maintained during the course of evolution. But, what happens when new elements are incorporated for the first time into an extant biological system? How are these novel players integrated and how are their interaction partners initially set?

Through a variety of mutational processes, genomic information is being continuously modified during evolution, by changing and reshuffling the functional interactions between existing genomic elements and with the addition of newly originated elements. The appearance of these genomic novelties often involves completely new molecular encounters where a given molecular entity had to face a hitherto ‘unknown’ molecular environment: for example, the co-occurrence in time and space of a protein with other proteins with which it had never overlapped before. Importantly, this type of first-time encounters constitutes the starting point for multiple evolutionary phenomena that are major drivers of molecular evolution.

Our goal is to understand how new biological interactions are initially set at the time of origin of molecular innovations. This will allow us study the inherent capacities of biological molecular structures to interpret and read the information contained in other biological systems and shed light into how the identity of these systems is defined and changed over time.
We approach this general questions from the perspective of the evolution of transcriptional regulation, using a variety of functional genomic and approaches and developmental model systems such as zebrafish and flies.