Principal Investigator:
Filipe Castro

A central question in Evolutionary Biology is how differences in gene repertoire impact the morphological and physiological diversity of animal species. To tackle this issue, we must consider issues such as gene numbers, orthology assignment, patterns of gene loss, the contribution of gene duplication and the interplay of these genomic events with environmental settings (adaptation). The central long-term objective of the Animal Genetics and Evolution team (AGE) is to elucidate and comprehend the evolution of complex traits and gene networks in Metazoans and their impact on animal physiology, in particular in the context of the Anthropocene Epoch.

The ”Omics” Era exemplified by the extraordinary number of full genome projects currently available, offers a unique and timely opportunity to investigate and to understand the basis of animal physiological diversity. The team has been investigating the impact of life history trajectories in the context of genomic processes affecting gene repertoire (gene loss and duplication). By combining comparative and functional genomics, we are carrying out an extensive characterization of the repertoire of fatty acid biosynthetic genes (desaturases and elongases) and nuclear receptors in species representing key informative phyla (e.g. sponges, bryozoans, annelids, molluscs, cephalochordates, and vertebrates) to address the evolution of lipid physiology and endocrine function in Metazoans, especially in the context of the Anthropocene.


Animal Genetics and Evolution Co-PI: Mónica Marques


Publications Highlights

Fonseca E., Ruivo R., Lopes-Marques M., Zhang H., Santos M.M., Venkatesh B., Castro L.F. 2017. LXRα and LXRβ Nuclear Receptors Evolved in the Common Ancestor of Gnathostomes. Genome Biology and Evolution, 9(1):222-230.

Cruzeiro C., Lopes-Marques M., Ruivo R., Rodrigues-Oliveira N., Santos M.M., Rocha M.J., Rocha E., Castro L.F. 2016. A mollusk VDR/PXR/CAR-like (NR1J) nuclear receptor provides insight into ancient detoxification mechanisms. Aquatic Toxicology, 174: 61-9.

Monroig Ó., Lopes-Marques M., Navarro J.C., Hontoria F., Ruivo R., Santos M.M., Venkatesh B., Tocher D.R., Castro L.F. 2016. Evolutionary functional elaboration of the Elovl2/5 gene family in chordates. Scientific Reports, 6: 20510.

Castro L.F., Tocher D.R., Monroig O. 2016. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis in chordates: Insights into the evolution of Fads and Elovl gene repertoire. Progress in Lipid Research, 62: 25-40.

Castro L.F.C., Santos M.M. 2014. To bind or not to bind: the taxonomic scope of nuclear receptor mediated endocrine disruption in invertebrate phyla. Environmental Science and Technology, 48(10): 5361-5363.