Javier Lopez Garrido

Javier will start his research group at the MPI in summer.
Please contact Javier for further information on the project: jlopezgarrido@ucsd.edu

Evolution of sporulation cellular dynamics

Despite the central place of the cell in living systems, the evolutionary origin and diversification of different cellular features remain poorly understood. This represents a major gap in our understanding of the evolutionary process, as the establishment and modification of such features has surely constituted an important substrate for evolution ever since the emergence of the first cell. In our lab, we aim to understand how evolution works at the cellular level, and how cellular changes impact evolution at the level of the whole organism. For this purpose, we use bacterial endospore formation as a model system.

Endospore formation (aka sporulation) is a developmental process that culminates with the formation of resilient spores. The process gathers all the necessary ingredients to address key questions in evolutionary cell biology. Firstly, sporulation involves dramatic changes in cellular architecture, and those changes can be easily tracked in real time using microscopy. Secondly, sporulation involves the participation of a small number of cells (only two cells in many cases), so changes in cellular architecture are expected to have readily observed effects at the organismal level. Thirdly, although the evolutionary origin of sporulation is monophyletic, the process has diversified throughout evolution, providing the substrate to perform comparative studies.

We look for enthusiastic students keen on learning approaches from both cell biology and evolutionary biology, in a fun and friendly atmosphere. Interested candidates will have the opportunity to use a combination of cutting-edge microscopy and single-cell analysis, molecular and classical genetics, experimental evolution and comparative approaches to develop research programs addressing the emergence and diversification of the dynamic cellular features that characterize sporulation.

For more information, please check the following publications: Lopez-Garrido et al. Cell (2018) (PMID: 29425492), Riley et al. Molecular Microbiology (2018) (PMID: 29363854), Ojkic et al. eLIFE (2016) (PMID: 27852437), and Jen Shin et al., eLIFE (2015) (PMID: 25950186).

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