Since the origin of cellular life on Earth, cells have continued to evolve seemingly improbable complexity and sophistication. Our ambition is to better understand the diversity of cell organizations, functions and processes, how they evolved, and how they contribute to modern life as we know it. In particular, we are interested in: how unrelated cells can join forces to form productive, long-lasting endosymbiotic partnerships; how some symbionts have become ingenious but dangerous parasites; and how cells’ information storage systems have found new solutions to old problems.
Endosymbiosis is complicated – it is often about much more than the sharing of select desirable traits. It involves redundancy and short-sighted decision-making, as well as constructively overcoming the obstacles of intimate cohabitation. My work has provided new understandings of the stepwise events that result in stable endosymbionts, some of which explain why some cells that lose photosynthesis often cannot lose their plastid organelles, but others can. My group is also exploiting systems biology level technologies to gain a global view of endosymbionts and their relationships with their host cells.
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Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems
University of Cambridge, Department of Biochemistry