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​Uncovering gene expression underpinning the evolution of plant organs

Published on: 09-Oct-2020

Event Type: Seminar
Event Date: 9 October  2020 - 4:00pm
Venue: Online (via Zoom)
Speaker: Dr Irene Julca

About the speaker:

My research focuses on the integration of genomic and transcriptomic data to study the patterns of gene conservation across species and organs, with a special focus on plants. I’ve been working with the genome of different organisms including species of the genus Olea, Oldenlandia, Prunus, Cucumis, Castanospermum, Penicillium, Myzus, and Cinara. I’ve obtained my PhD at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), in the lab of Toni Gabaldón. I am currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Mutwil lab ( at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

About the event:

The evolution of plant organs mediated the explosive radiation of land plants, which shaped the biosphere and allowed the establishment of terrestrial animal life. Furthermore, the products of the fusion of gametes of corn, rice, wheat, and tomato serve as the basis for all our food. The evolution of organs and gametes required the coordinated acquisition of novel gene functions, co-option of existing genes and development of novel regulatory programs. However, our knowledge of these events is limited, as no large-scale analyses of genomic and transcriptomic data have been performed for land plants. To remedy this, we have generated gene expression atlases for various organs and gametes of 10 plant species comprising bryophytes, vascular plants, gymnosperms and flowering plants. Comparative analysis of the atlases identified hundreds of organ and gamete-specific gene families, and revealed that most of the specific transcriptomes are significantly conserved. Male gametes, in contrast to female gametes, showed a high number and conservation of specific genes, suggesting that male reproduction is highly specialized. Interestingly, the appearance of organ-specific gene families does not coincide with the appearance of the corresponding organ, suggesting that co-option of existing genes is the main mechanism for evolving new organs. The expression atlas capturing pollen development revealed numerous transcription factors and kinases important for pollen biogenesis and function. To provide easy access to the expression atlases and these comparative analyses, we provide an online database,, that allows the exploration of expression profiles, organ-specific genes, phylogenetic trees, co-expression networks and others.

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