Thursday Lunchtime Talks

Reconstruction of the Ancestor of Life, Construction of Minimal Life and Other Things that Comparative Genomics Can Do

Dr Arcady Mushegian
Clare Hall Visiting Fellow

Minimal genome is a construct of biochemical engineering; it is a cell that may survive under given growth conditions with the smallest amount of genetic material, and the question here is how to determine what that material should be. Ancestral genome is a construct of evolutionary inference; it is a cell that may represent the last common ancestor of a given set of evolutionary lineages, and the question here is how to retrodict what the ancestral genome was.

Different as the two questions are, the answers to both of them are provided with the aid of computational biology when the genomes of many species known today are compared to each other. I will discuss what has been learned about minimal and ancestral genomes thus far, focusing on the computational biology research done in my group, as well as the experimental work done by many others. I also will describe briefly the study of this and other problems in comparative genomics that I am doing at the Genetics Department while visiting at Clare Hall.