Associated Faculty

 

Marlies Dolezal

 

Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

publications

Research area:

Marlies A. Dolezal is a quantitative geneticist and animal breeder. She has mapped QTLs using pedigree based and whole genome association analysis for a variety of production and fitness traits in livestock populations. Methodological work included the development of a new mapping technique for selective DNA pooling and combining population and quantitative genomics approaches to increase mapping power. Recent work has focussed on identifying and genetically characterizing copy number variants in cattle and pig populations.

 

 

Arndt von Haeseler

 

Professor, Center of Integrative Bioinformatics Vienna
Max F. Perutz Laboratories

publications

Research area: Theoretical molecular evolution

Arndt von Haeseler has long standing research interest in understanding the theoretical foundations of molecular evolution. He puts special emphasis on modeling the evolutionary process on different levels of complexities. Besides modeling evolution he also uses evolutionary models to infer the past from data provided by contemporary organisms. To achieve these goals he applies methodological tools from Mathematics and Computer Sciences. Moreover, his group is involved in the development of bioinformatics platforms to handle large amount of data.

 

 

Robert Kofler

 

Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

publications

Research area:

Given the outstanding importance of transposable elements (TE) for genome evolution, adaptation to novel environments and human diseases, our knowledge about the evolution of TE dynamics is surprisingly limited. Why are some species, like Arabidopsis thaliana, almost free of transposons while for other species, like Paris japonica, transposons constitute bulk of the genome? Why are some species, like humans, mostly containing RNA transposons while other's like Caenorhabditis are mostly containing DNA transposons? It is my aim to shed light on the forces that drive the evolution of TE content and composition in different species. I approach these questions both at a macroevolutionary level, comparing the TE content in related species, and at a microevolutionary level, investigating TE activity in experimentally evolving populations.

I'm also interested in novel methods that allow to dissect the genetic basis of quantitative traits. Most of the variation of traits relevant in medicine, agriculture, sociobiology, ecology and evolution is quantitative. Understanding the genetic basis of such quantitative (or complex) traits is considered key for improving crop yield, leveraging personalized medicine and comprehending poorly understood evolutionary processes such as extinctions, adaptation, speciation, canalization and phenotypic plasticity. It is thus not surprising that unraveling the genetic basis of quantitative or complex traits is considered to be a key challenge for biology in the 21st century.

 

 

Sylvain Mousset

 

Faculty of Mathematics
University of Vienna

publications

Research area:

Sylvain Mousset is a population geneticist with a general interest for statistical methods and theoretical models in evolutionary biology. His work has especially focussed on the detection of departure from neutrality in DNA polymorphism data, and disentangling the effects of selection from other evolutionary forces, such as demography or biased gene conversion. He recently got interest in the evolution of sex, sex chromosomes, and species diversification. He has shown that the apparent lack of diversity in dioecious plants may simply result of a statistical bias, and wants to develop further models of species diversification including inputs of population genetics theory.

 

Kristan Schneider

 

Professor, Hochschule Mittweida

former Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics
University of Vienna

publications

Research area:

Kristan Schneider studies theoretical models for anti-malarial drug resistance, the most severe threat to malaria control and eradication efforts. By combining population dynamical with population genetic approaches he develops models for genetic hitchhiking, which are directly applicable to molecular data (microsatellite or SNP data). By this approach it is possible to reconstruct the evolutionary dynamics of drug-resistance associated mutations, even in the absence of reliable clinical or epidemiological data. This is the key to understand the evolution of drug resistance and guarantee successful malaria control/eradication. For Kristan research data analysis is equally important as mathematical modeling.
Furthermore, Kristan studies models of frequency-dependent selection, a form of selection in which the fitnesses of individuals (probability to survive from birth to age of reproduction) depend on the population’s composition. This form of selection arises naturally in many ecological scenarios. Kristan is interested in general properties of frequency-dependent selection as well as in applications to theoretical ecology and speciation.

 

 

Kirsten Senti

 

Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

publications

Research area:

Kirsten-André Senti studies the ancient conflict between Transposable Elements (TEs) and their hosts. Most organisms sequenced to date harbor a substantial load of TE insertions in their genomes. In turn, TE invasions have triggered the evolution of host defenses against them. The main host defense in animals is the piRNA pathway that utilizes the PIWI clade of Argonaute proteins that are expressed in gonads. PIWI proteins are loaded with PIWI interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which guide the PIWI proteins by homology dependent basepairing to active TE transcripts to suppress them. piRNAs originate from precursor transcripts of specialized genomic loci, termed piRNAs clusters, that represent the host’s sequence archives of previous TE invasions.

The recent analysis of the piRNA pathway has unravelled the molecular mechanisms of host defense to a large extent, but has also provided novel insights into the biology of active TEs. Yet in the evolutionary arms race between TEs and host control, many questions remain open.

We use modern functional genetics, next generation sequencing and imaging techniques in Drosophila to tackle the following two questions:

- How does the piRNA pathway adapt to silence novel TE invasions?
- How do TEs adapt to the host biology to maximize their replication?

 

 

Irene Tiemann-Boege

 

Associate Professor, Institute of Biophysics
Johannes Kepler University Linz

publications

Research area:

Irene Tiemann-Boege's main interest is to study how recombination and mutation are shaping the evolution of the genome. Throughout her career she has developed highly sensitive technologies  to accurately characterize recombination and mutation processes, including a technology similar to next generation sequencing capable of analyzing in parallel millions of single molecules. With her expertise she contributed with experimental data to areas such as the paternal age-effect and recombination hotspots. Currently, she is working in the relationship between recombination and mutation and the role of  recombination hotspots in the evolution of certain gene classes.

 

 

Barbara Wallner

 

Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

publications

Research area:

I am interested in the genetics of livestock, especially horses and specifically their male sex chromosome. The major part of the Y chromosome is transmitted from fathers to sons without recombination. It therefore perfectly mirrors male genealogies. I investigate naturally occurring Y-chromosomal sequence variation to trace the paternal ancestry of horses. Further I take the horse as a model to study evolutionary mechanisms on sex chromosomes and also work on the generation of draft assemblies for Y-chromosomes using short read NGS data.

 

Alumni

 

Andrea Betancourt

 

Group Leader at University of Liverpool

Former Group Leader Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna
publications

Research area:

Population genetics has produced a rich body of theory about how populations evolve, and with the advent of molecular biology, it has become possible to put these theories to a test.  Andrea Betancourt focuses on examining patterns found in molecular data and asking if these are consistent with theoretical predictions. Her work has addressed questions such as: Does recombination allow more rapid adaptation?  Do X-linked loci show stronger responses to selection? What forces drive the evolution of transposable elements? She has used both natural populations of Drosophila species and laboratory phage populations in her work.

 


Thomas Flatt

 

SNSF Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution
University of Lausanne


former Group Leader, Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna
publications

Research area: Mechanisms and Evolution of Aging and Life History

We are studying the mechanisms and evolution of aging and other life history traits, using the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) as a model system. A major focus of our research is on the hormonal regulation of lifespan and of trade-offs between reproduction and lifespan, immune function, and somatic maintenance. To address these problems we use the multidisciplinary approaches, including methods from evolutionary genetics, experimental evolution, molecular genetics, and physiology.

 

 

Angela Hancock

 

Group Leader, MPI for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne

former Group Leader, Max F. Perutz Laboratories
publications

Research area:

Adaptation to different local environments can result in large-scale phenotypic divergence across a species’ range. Understanding how this variation is produced and maintained is a central goal of evolutionary biology. But producing a comprehensive picture of how adaptation has progressed in specific cases is a daunting task because it requires knowledge of adaptive phenotypes, the genetic basis for phenotypic variation, and evidence that differences in this genetic basis equate to fitness differentials in the natural population. In most organisms, due to long life spans and inadequate genetic tools, this is currently not possible. However, ecologically interesting populations of well-studied model organisms can provide the
background knowledge and tools necessary to overcome this challenge.

Projects in the group use the model plant A. thaliana to clarify how adaptation progressed this species. The current main focus of the group is on reconstructing the history of adaptation in the highly divergent Cape Verde Islands population. Ongoing and planned projects focus on identifying functional genetic variants, modeling their evolutionary histories and testing for fitness differentials in simulated and natural environments using a combination of population genetic analysis, trait mapping, and field work in the Cape Verde and Canary Islands.

 

 

Ines Hellmann

 

Anthropology and Human Genomics, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich

former Group Leader, Max F. Perutz Laboratories
publications

Research area: Population genetics and genomics

Ines Hellmann's work focuses on the detection of molecular signals of selection in genomic data. She is particularly interested how genomic structures, such as chromosome position, recombination rate and GC-content, impact the evolution of genes. A new research interest is evolutionary epigenetics. Now, that new technologies elucidate the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance, it will be interesting to investigate what impact epigenetics can have on evolution. Ines Hellmann's work includes the application of known methods to genome-wide data-sets, but also requires the development of new methods.

 

 

Alex Kalinka

 

former Group Leader, Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

publications

Research area: evo-devo, ecology, and population genetics

The environment of an organism strongly influences how its embryonic development evolves. For example, density-dependent competition among larvae may select for rapid embryonic development to maximise an individual's access to dwindling resources. Our research focuses on understanding how ecological circumstances drive the evolution of development in strains and species of Drosophila, and ultimately how these micro-evolutionary changes might culminate in macro-evolutionary changes at the morphological level. Several questions are pertinent to this focus: Is genetic variation for embryonic traits readily available for selection in strains and wild isolates of Drosophila? Do stressful environments release cryptic genetic variation for fitness-related traits? What is the role of maternal effects in the response to environmental change? To address these, and related, questions, we are combining experimental evolution approaches with population and evolutionary genetics tools and methodologies.



 

Alistair McGregor

 

Dep. of Biol. and Med. Sciences, Oxford Brookes University

former Group Leader, Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna
publications

Research area: Analysis of natural variation within and between species

Alistair McGregor has extensive research experience in the analysis of cis-regulatory enhancers, mapping morphological differences in Drosophila, and investigating the evolution of developmental regulation. With the overall aim of understanding morphological evolution, Alistair McGregor's research addresses a number of questions central to understanding this process: What are the molecular changes in developmental factors underlying morphological variation? What is the relationship between the evolution of intra-specific and inter-specific variation? The long-term goal of Alistair McGregor's research is to synthesize population genetics and evolutionary developmental biology to fully address questions of the molecular basis, population origin and dynamics, and potential adaptive significance of variation in morphology.

 

FWF - Der Wissenschaftsfond Partner: FWF - Der Wissenschaftsfond
Vetmed Uni Vienna Partner: Vetmed Uni Vienna
Max F. Perutz Laboratories Partner: Max D. Perutz Laboratories
Gregor Mendel Institut Partner: Gregor Mendel Institute
Uniwien Partner: Uniwien