The common interest of mother and child: the evolution of genomic imprinting

This project is available from the academic year 2019/20 onwards.

Theme: Evolution & Adaptation
Primary Supervisor:

Franscisco Ubeda

Biological and Chemical Sciences, RHUL

Secondary Supervisor:

Andrew Pomiankowski

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

Project Description:

Genomic imprinting is a unique property of some genes that show differential expression when maternally and paternally inherited. Imprinted genes are either maternally expressed and paternally silenced or the reverse. Why would natural selection favor genes with monoallelic expression?

The project will develop the co-adaptation theory of genomic imprinting that relies on the assumption that genetic similarity between genes expressed in mother and offspring increases fitness of both parties. Therefore both mother and offspring benefit from suppressing the expression of paternally inherited genes in the embryo.

The aim of the research is to: (a) provide a formal mathematical framework to test the the co-adaptation theory, (b) test whether empirical evidence suggest maternal control of embryo expression, (c) integrate this mathematical framework within the existing body of theory on the evolution of genomic imprinting (in particular the kinship theory of genomic imprinting).

Additional supervision with Vincent Jansen (RHUL) & Nick Lane (UCL)

Policy Impact of Research:

This research will allow a better understaning of the complex interactions, both cooperation and conflict, between mother/father and offspring during gestation and after birth.

These have important interactions with environmental conditions, and underlie a raft of significant medical disorders.

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