Evolution of primate transcription factor genes
Prof. Dr. Katja Nowick
Transcription factors regulate the expression of genes and are such involved in all biological processes, from early embryonic development to cognition. Sequence changes in transcription factors can lead to diseases but also evolutionary changes. For instance, KRAB-ZNF proteins evolve quickly and have been suggested to be involved in speciation processes, evolution of human cognitive abilities, and arms races with transposable elements.
Recently, more than 200 primate genomes became publicly available, of which about 50 have been produced with long-read sequencing techniques. In this project, you will take advantage of these genomes to annotate transcription factor genes in other primates, trace back their evolutionary origin within primates, analyze sequence differences across primates and test for positive selection of transcription factors on the lineages to humans and other great apes. This will allow you to identify lineage-specific and positively selected transcription factor genes, which you can further investigate using either bioinformatics or wet-lab methods to find out more about their functions and the genes they regulate. Collectively, your results will provide insight into molecular changes that shaped human-specific phenotypes and the phenotypes of our closest living relatives.
More information can be found on the website of the Human Biology and Primate Evolution Group.