The evolutionary consequences of lateral gene transfer in grasses

Our previous work has shown that lateral gene transfer (LGT) is prevalent in grasses where it is responsible for spreading functional genes of adaptive significance between species. We are building on this work to understand the ecological drivers, evolutionary implications and the mechanisms behind these transfers.

Dunning et al. (2019) PNAS

Pan-genome variation and local adaptation in grasses

Not all individuals within an species have the same set of genes, and this gene content variation is likely to have important consequences for environmental adaptation. We are currently investigating the evolutionary drivers resulting in this mosaic pattern of gene presence, and trying to understand how this variation is distributed at different biological levels.

Adaptation within a lifetime

We are investigating how an individuals lifetime experience can drive heritable genetic changes, potentially through epigenetics and the formation of extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA). By surveying these circular molecules across multiple species we hope to determine their evolutionary importance and role in rapid environmental adaptation.