Exploring mitonuclear effects in admixed populations

This project is available from the academic year 2024/25 onwards.

Theme: Evolution & Adaptation

Primary Supervisor:

Florencia Camus

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Aida Andres

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Project Description:

Energy production depends on the harmonious interactions between proteins encoded in two genomes: mitochondrial and nuclear. However, both these genomes have very different modes and tempi of evolution, complicating this vital coevolutionary process. We know that mitonuclear incompatibilities can be detrimental for individuals, with even mild incompatibilities showing deficiencies in life-history traits. Whilst there is a lot of knowledge on the effects of mitonuclear interactions in laboratory populations, little is known on how these dynamics play out in the wild. Furthermore, we don’t know how interactions between these two genomes shape evolutionary processes such as adaptation or speciation.

This project aims to explore the consequences of introgression and population admixture on mitonuclear genome evolution. Using a combination of genomic and population genetic tools, we will be able to detect signatures of coadaptation in admixed populations. Combined with the analysis of ancient DNA, these signatures will allow us to identify mitonuclear incompatibilities in natural populations and will shed light on important introgression and admixture events that remain poorly understood today. This will be complimented with experimental evolution techniques to recreate introgression/admixture events in a controlled setting and examine coevolutionary dynamics in real time.

Policy Impact of Research:

This project will help us to understand the effects of admixture in mitonuclear interactions, which are overlooked but clearly important. Admixture will likely increase as natural habitats are destroyed and species change location and/or we mix them in captivity to maximise genetic diversity. This is especially important in light of a rapidly changing environment where ecological niches are subject to shift.

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