Scientific sessions, CRG Group Leader Seminars
A major challenge in evolutionary biology is to identify the origin and nature of genomic changes underlying morphological novelties. Since such structures are mainly built during embryogenesis, it is thus crucial to understand how basic developmental processes operate and have evolved across lineages. Among these processes, epithelial-mesenchymal interactions and transitions are essential for the development of multiple organs and adult structures; therefore, unraveling conserved and derived molecular tools involved in the identity of these tissues and their interplay is key for understanding morphological evolution. In this talk, I will focus on the developmental role of the Epithelial Splicing Regulatory Protein (ESRP) gene family, which regulates an extensive alternative splicing program associated with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions in human cell cultures and cancer, and is essential in mouse organogenesis. We investigated both the developmental role and transcriptomic impact of ESRP splicing factors during embryogenesis of vertebrates and their close invertebrate relatives. Our results demonstrate that, while ESRP proteins are involved in similar basic developmental processes associated with epithelial-mesenchymal interplays, they have often been coopted for the development of clade-restricted structures through regulation of largely lineage-specific exon targets.
Manuel Irimia obtained his PhD in 2010 at University of Barcelona investigating the origin of vertebrates. After two postdocs at Stanford University and University of Toronto, he joined the CRG in June 2014. His lab is interested in understanding the roles that transcriptomic diversification, especially through alternative splicing, plays on vertebrate development and evolution.