Symposia Abstracts

Adaptive and non-adaptive evolution of gene expression and regulation

Organizers: Stefan Laurent, Jeffrey Jensen, Anamaria Necsulea, Mehmet Somel
Confirmed speakers: Laurent Duret, Yoav Gilad

Identifying the substrate of adaptive evolution is a key question in evolutionary biology. It was proposed early on that much of adaptive evolution may occur at the level of gene expression, by means of positive selection acting on the genetic variation naturally occurring at regulatory elements. Comparisons of gene expression patterns and regulatory mechanisms are now possible within and between species, allowing evolutionary biologists to reveal the genetic mechanisms of adaptations. However, non-adaptive forces are also expected to shape the genetic variation of regulatory modules and to drive the evolution of gene expression. Therefore, mechanisms such as genetic drift, biased gene conversion, variability in mutation rates have to be carefully taken into account when reconstructing the evolutionary history of gene expression and regulation. In this symposium we propose to bring together researchers from the fields of population genetics, functional and evolutionary genomics and systems biology to discuss issues related to the functional characterization of the genetic variation within regulatory elements and the statistical inference of evolutionary forces driving the evolution of gene expression. We encourage submissions that examine adaptive and non-adaptive mechanisms underlying different aspects of gene expression evolution, including alternative splicing, non-coding RNA expression, as well as transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation.



Ancient genomes: A time machine for investigating natural selection

Organizers: Zuzana Faltyskova, Yoan Diekmann, David Diez del Molino, Pascale Gerbault, Mark Thomas
Confirmed speakers: Johannes Krause, Ludovic Orlando

Detecting natural selection and processes underlying genetic adaptations are core objectives of evolutionary biology and ecology. A number of statistical approaches have been developed in recent years to detect signatures of natural selection in modern genetic data. However, they all have poor temporal resolution, most are confounded by past demographic processes, and many are insensitive to selection acting on standing variation.
Ancient genomics has gained considerable momentum in recent years but its application to selection studies is still in its infancy. Sequencing ancient genomes from fossil material provides a unique snapshot of past genetic variation, thus providing a powerful tool for investigating adaptation hypotheses directly, and the only means of assessing temporal heterogeneity in natural selection.
In this Symposium we will explore new methods and the potentials of using heterochronic data to study natural selection, whether comparing ancient genomes to modern variation and/or ancient genomes from different time periods. We will discuss the principles, examples and potential limitations of detecting selection in any organism for which ancient genomes are available, including prokaryotes, plants, animals, and humans.



Beyond the Equilibrium Paradigm: The role of temporal processes in population genetics and evolution

Organizers: Daniel Balick, Armita Nourmohammad
Confirmed speakers: Isabel Gordo, Ville Mustonen

Recent advancements in sequencing technologies provide a unique opportunity for population geneticists to infer and predict the dynamics of evolving populations. Traditionally, inference of evolutionary forces and population histories were based on snapshots of populations from a single time-point, mostly conducted under the assumptions of a static framework. In the natural world, a population in equilibrium seems to be more of an exception than a rule; temporal dependence of population sizes, the strengths and type of selection, and the rates of mutation are ubiquitous
features of nature. As such, there has been a concerted effort to move beyond the static paradigm to explicitly deal with both the theoretical and experimental consequences of time dependent phenomena in evolutionary genetics. Experimental designs with genetic sequence collection at many time points in lab evolution experiments and in natural populations of microbiota, viruses, and even
somatic cell growth in cancer have been complemented by new theoretical  formulations. Insights gained from the evolution of these microorganisms may soon be applied to long-lived macroorganisms, making use of the ancient DNA sequencing techniques that provide temporal population data.
This symposium aims to highlight the many facets of time-dependent population dynamics, working towards an understanding of evolution far beyond the equilibrium paradigm.



Cancer as a Darwinian process

Organizers: Oana Carja, Nicole Creanza, Laurel Fogarty
Confirmed speakers: Natalia Komarova

Cancer, one of the world’s biggest killers, is fundamentally a Darwinian process. Heritable genetic and epigenetic changes can disrupt the systems regulating cell replication, which can, in turn, break down the mechanisms of cooperation between cells that are fundamental to multicellularity. In this sense, tumors are nothing more than populations of cells with an evolutionary advantage. In order to understand and eradicate cancer, we must first understand the evolutionary dynamics that govern the process of tumor initiation and progression. This understanding requires an evolutionary and ecological perspective that can integrate vast amounts of biological and clinical data as well as an evolutionary framework that makes testable predictions as to how interventions will influence therapeutic outcomes.
This symposium will bring together researchers with different perspectives - cancer researchers, mathematical oncologists, and evolutionary biologists and ecologists - to explore how mathematical approaches can be used to understand tumor initiation and progression as well as how evolutionarily informed approaches can be used to gain new insights in cancer research. The work presented will provide a basis for future research into cancer as an evolutionary process.



Evolution and ecology of microbial communities

Organizers: Mathieu Groussin, Florent Lassalle
Confirmed speakers: Peer Bork, Nancy Moran

The study of microbial community ecology and evolution has been advancing at a rapid pace for a few years, benefiting from the possibility to analyze metagenomic sequence data. Microbial communities in diverse environments have been characterized, with major impact on our understanding of microecology and human health. However, the complex nature of a microbial community makes it challenging to identify the ecological and evolutionary processes driving its multi-level structure. A community comprises dozens to hundreds of species interacting together, sharing or competing for goods, cooperating for or antagonizing in niche occupation. It can also be seen as a loosely compartmentalized gene pool structured by the pattern of genetic exchange among its members. These species and genetic interactions evolve in time along with the surrounding environment. Revealing the evolutionary processes linking these aspects of microbiomes is critical to understanding how microbes adapt to various environments and, in turn, how environments are impacted.
This symposium aims at presenting new empirical results on evolution and ecology of microbial communities and the dynamics of their taxonomic composition, genomic diversity and functional repertoires. Methodological advances allowing us to infer these dynamics will also be presented.



Evolution of molecular pathways and networks: Molecular evolution meets systems biology

Organizers: Mario A. Fares, David Alvarez-Ponce
Confirmed speakers: David Robertson, Ryan Gutenkunst

Proteins rarely work in isolation. On the contrary, they often operate as pieces of complex systems, including cells and organisms. As such, their function is mediated, and/or regulated, through interactions with other proteins. The complexity of inter-molecular interactions within a cell can be represented in the form of various networks (including protein–protein interaction networks, metabolic networks, signaling networks, genetic networks, and transcriptional regulatory networks). In the last years, draft versions of such large-scale maps have started to become available, allowing a systems-level exploration of the cell. Understanding how proteins operate and evolve as a system is not only an exciting endeavor, but also one that can aid applications such as drug discovery and metabolic engineering. From the point of view of molecular evolution, understanding proteins’ patterns of evolution may benefit from considering their position in the networks of which they are part. For instance, it is known that proteins acting at the center of molecular networks (i.e., those that interact with many other proteins) are more selectively constrained (and thus more evolutionarily conserved) than those acting at the periphery.
In this symposium we will explore how networks of interacting proteins have generated (grown) over evolutionary time, how a network approach can help understand gene’s patterns of evolution, and, in general, how networks evolve at the systems level.



Exploring the consequences of ancient and contemporary gene flow

Organizers: Kelley Harris, Tyler Linderoth, John A. Capra, Corinne Simonti
Confirmed speakers: Josh Akey, Joachim Hermisson

One reason why species are notoriously hard to define is that gene flow often
continues in the face of emerging reproductive barriers. Genomic data has revealed
that introgression is ubiquitous; in particular, ancient DNA sequencing has
uncovered evidence of ancient gene flow from archaic hominins into anatomically
modern humans. The distribution of introgressed alleles in modern human
genomes suggests that selection has acted both to eliminate deleterious foreign
material and to retain locally adaptive archaic variation related to phenotypes
including keratin filament structure, adaptation to high altitude, and lipid
metabolism. In addition, contemporary introgression has affected the evolutionary
trajectories of many plants and animals, particularly as anthropogenic
environmental alteration spurs changes in species’ geographic ranges including
colonization of new habitats and alteration of life history traits such as migration
timing. Gene flow can be adaptive and even rescue populations threatened by
inbreeding depression, but always at the risk of inducing outbreeding depression
or displacing endemic genetic variation.
This symposium will bring together recent work on archaic hominin admixture with studies of gene flow in other species, focusing on the fitness consequences of introgression over long and short timescales.



Fungal evolutionary genomics: Unravelling mysteries from the forgotten kingdom

Organizers: Chris Todd Hittinger, Joseph Schacherer, Ken Wolfe
Confirmed speakers: Jason Stajich

Fungi have small and compact genomes, yet they retain the key features of other eukaryotes, including introns, centromeres, telomeres, sexual cycles, and complex regulatory networks. They arose in the Precambrian and have radiated to perform a wide array of heterotrophic ecosystem functions, such as the parasitism of animals and plants, tissue decay, and sugar fermentation. Fungi have evolved remarkably different carbon utilization strategies, allowing different species to store excess nutrients and energy as riboflavin, oils, ethanol, and even octane. Thus, they are superlative models of metabolic and genome evolution across even deep evolutionary timescales. Fungal genomes have provided fundamental insights into how functions are partitioned among paralogs following whole genome duplications, how life cycles evolve, and how ecological shifts lead to changes in genome content and metabolism.
The Dikaryome (Génolevures Consortium), F1000 Fungal Genomes, the Y1000+ Saccharomycotina Yeasts, and other fungal evolutionary genomics projects are providing confirmed speakers and organizers to this timely symposium, which promises to illuminate general principals of genome evolution while providing tractable model systems that enable rigorous experimental tests.



Genomic and epigenomic evolution of sex chromosomes: Broad patterns and intriguing cases

Organizers: Qi Zhou, John Wang
Confirmed speakers: Ray Ming

Sex chromosomes originate from a pair of ancestral autosomes, and usually evolve distinctive genomic and epigenomic compositions after recombination was suppressed. This fundamental process has been recurrently occurring across different animal and plant lineages in spite of their independent origins of sex chromosomes. Our understandings into its molecular details and mechanisms have been dramatically expanded and deepened, by the recent development of next-generation sequencing technologies. Two kinds of studies are particularly fruitful. One samples a wide range of species to reconstruct their evolutionary history of ancient sex chromosomes; and the other focuses on certain species with relatively young sex chromosomes, which permits the dissection of genomic and epigenomic mechanisms underlying the divergence between sex chromosomes.
This symposium aims to bring together the leading scientists active in both kinds of studies, and provide an interactive forum for them to gain new insights from each other’s work and further inspire discussions about the next questions to ask in this classic and fast-growing field. Potential topics include but are not limited to: evolution of recombination suppression between sex chromosomes, origin of sex-determining genes, and mechanisms of Y degeneration and dosage compensation.



Genomics of sex bias: Addressing questions with or without genomes

Organizers: Melissa A. Wilson Sayres, J.J. Emerson
Confirmed speakers: Jennifer A.M. Graves, Deborah Charlesworth

Next-generation sequencing technology permits the study molecular evolution of sex chromosomes even in the absence of reference genomes. Longstanding questions are now amenable to systematic large-scale study, including the analysis of gene movements between the sex chromosomes and autosomes, Y chromosome degeneration, and transcriptome analyses of sexlinked genes, including changes in the expression pattern of the X compared to the Y, as well as stage dependent expression of sex-linked genes (e.g. meiotic sex chromosome inactivation).
Comparative genomics studies highlight divergent and convergent patterns of sex chromosome evolution in a range of taxa (e.g., XY versus ZW systems, as well as between vertebrates, invertebrates and plants), with new sequencing technologies expediting the investigation of nonmodel organisms. Such studies highlight substantial and functionally important variation, and provide insights into the evolutionary mechanisms that drive sex chromosome evolution.
This symposium highlights the ability of technology to allow investigation of previously unattainable questions in sexbiased molecular biology and evolution.



Inference of demography and selection under violations of the Kingman coalescent assumptions

Organizers: Aurélien Tellier, Tatiana Giraud
Confirmed speakers: Francois Balloux

Most of the population genetics theory and statistical tests for selection in genomic data have been developed following the Kingman’s coalescent model. However, these theoretical premises rely on biological and life-history assumptions which are often violated in many prokaryote, fungal, animal or plant species.
In this symposium we highlight recent developments in population genetics theory taking into account previously ignored pervasive ecological and biological characteristics such as the skew in offspring production, fast adapting microparasites (virus, bacteria and fungi), long term resting stages or dormancy, and life cycles with alternating sexual and asexual cycles. We welcome theoretical and empirical studies investigating how these new assumptions affect nucleotide polymorphism, and the inference of adaptation and speciation processes compared to the Kingman model. We focus specifically on pioneering applications in 1) Darwinian medicine to understand the evolution of parasites, 2) disease management in agriculture to predict pathogen response to selective pressures, 3) the management of marine genetic resources to deploy sustainable fisheries, 4) the control of emergent diseases, and 5) the genomics of crop and animal domestication.



Inferring fitness landscapes from experimental evolution

Organizers: David McCandlish, Joshua Plotkin
Confirmed speakers: Michael Desai, Olivier Tenaillon

What can we learn about the structure of a fitness landscape from observations in evolving laboratory populations? Despite the potential power of massively replicated laboratory evolution experiments, we remain ignorant about the large-scale structure of fitness landscapes, even in simple, fixed environments. The central difficulty is that we do not know how best to draw inferences from the data generated in such experiments. To make matters worse, we do not even know what types of inferences can be made, in principle, from which types of data — that is, which feature of the fitness landscape, such as epistasis, are identifiable.
This symposium will showcase recent efforts to provide a firm statistical and population-genetic grounding for drawing inferences about the forces shaping adaptation using data from replicate experimental populations.



Micro-evo-devo: using natural variation to explain the how and why of phenotypic evolution

Organizers: Alistair McGregor, Maria D.S. Nunes, Luisa F. Pallares
Confirmed speakers: Marie-Anne Felix

Micro-evo-devo synthesises population genetics and evolutionary developmental biology to take advantage of natural variation to explain the genetic and developmental bases, and fitness consequence of phenotypic change, as well as the evolutionary forces that have shaped it.
Therefore, this symposium will highlight how the integrative framework of micro-evo-devo has great potential to explain how and why phenotypic diversity among populations has evolved. This symposium will provide a platform for the most recent advances using established models and attract researchers using recent advances in sequencing and genome editing technologies to investigate phenotypic evolution in emerging models. We expect that our proposed symposium will serve to consolidate this growing community and help the field to realise its full potential to enhance our understanding of the evolution of biological diversity.



Novel functional approaches to evolutionary genomics

Organizers: Irene Gallego Romero, Nicholas Banovich
Confirmed speakers: Rick Livesey

Formal testing of many evolutionary hypotheses, especially in closely related mammals, has been difficult until now due to practical and ethical constraints. However, recent advances in cellular biology, such as the development of induced pluripotent stem cell and genome editing technologies and genomics, like single cell sequencing, can open the door to powerful new ways of studying evolution. These technologies are bringing together multiple groups with diverse interests and perspectives, and transforming studies of functional evolution that were previously intractable in non-model organisms like the great apes.
Our symposium will highlight research that incorporates these novel approaches to enrich our understanding of evolutionary function and process, such as mechanisms of gene regulation or the importance of developmental contributions to phenotypic divergence.



Open Symposium

Featured speakers: Cara Brand, Flora Jay, Ida Moltke, Margot Paris, Lumi Viljakainen

This symposium is not restricted to any specific topic and provides an opportunity for participants to present their work that does not fit to one of the other symposia. The Local Organising Committee will select 5 abstracts for featured oral presentations of 30 minutes, each.



Origins and evolution of molecular innovation

Organizers: Joanna Masel, Rafik Neme, Erich Bornberg-Bauer
Confirmed speakers: Mar Albà

Generally, the field of molecular evolution is dominated by studies of descent with the accumulation of slight modifications. However, larger changes are also possible, in which entirely new molecular features originate for the first time. In this symposium we will consider rapid or spontaneous molecular innovations of diverse kinds (structures, functions, interactions, networks), with a preference for the most dramatic leaps between the absence and the presence of the molecular traits or features in question. Timely examples of great interest in the community include (i) de novo emergence of new genes, protein domains, regulatory regions and (ii) neo-functionalization, e.g. via the acquisition of new and adaptive binding activities.
The symposium will not only address well-documented examples of spontaneous emergence of novel molecular traits, but also cover findings relevant to the processes of innovation and its aftermath. These include (but are not limited to) the roles of promiscuity (e.g. in the emergence of novel enzymatic functions) and stochasticity across different organization levels.



PopGen in space! Theory and inference in spatial population genetics

Organizers: John Novembre, Graham Coop
Confirmed speakers: Laurent Excoffier, Nick Barton

Spatial processes are a key component of evolution playing a crucial role in determining patterns of genetic variation within a species and the process of speciation. The importance of spatial processes has been clear since the earliest days of evolutionary genetics and has continued to be an area of intense interest because of the potential to shed light on the history of populations, the nature of adaptive evolution, and speciation. Recently there have been multiple advances in theoretical models and statistical methodology that are transforming our ability to study spatial population genomics, and large datasets are making many new analyses possible.
The purpose of the symposium is to provide a forum for a summary of recent advances, as well as future challenges and prospects for spatial population genetics.



Population genomics of rapid adaptation

Organizers: Dmitri Petrov, Philipp Messer
Confirmed speakers: Sasha Levy, Thomas Bataillon

One of the most puzzling observations in evolutionary biology is that organisms can often adapt surprisingly quickly to environmental challenges. Classical examples of such rapid adaptations include the domestication of plants and animals and the evolution of pesticide or drug resistance. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the potential for rapid adaptation is a ubiquitous feature of evolution across a wide spectrum of systems, ranging from experimental evolution in microbes, to the progression of cancer cells in the human body, to the rapid responses of species under climate change. 
The growing number of systems where rapid adaptations are directly observable presents us with the fascinating opportunity to study evolution in real time and to make progress in understanding what limits the rate of evolution and determines its likely outcome. In this symposium, we will focus on (i) novel approaches to detect and study rapid adaptation using population genomic data, (ii) case studies of rapid adaptation in natural populations, and (iii) experimental studies of rapid adaptation in model systems. Although rapid adaptation has long been associated primarily with the evolution of polygenic traits that can adapt quickly by using standing genetic variation, we will also highlight recent work showing that adaptation at times can be rapid despite relying on de novo mutations.



Reframing the demography vs. selection debate using 21st century models and data

Organizers: Kirk E. Lohmueller, Emilia Huerta-Sanchez
Confirmed speakers: Anna Di Rienzo, Brenna Henn

The importance of natural selection versus population history at shaping genetic variation is at the core of population genetics and has been debated for decades. However, there is a deep interplay between these two evolutionary forces. For example, recent studies have determined that demographic processes have shaped patterns of segregating deleterious variation in humans and that ancient admixture has provided new adaptive alleles on which selection has acted. Further, it is becoming increasingly clear that natural selection can confound demographic inference from genomic data. Due to the wealth of DNA sequence data from multiple model and non-model taxa, ancient and modern genomes, it is now possible to study the interplay between selection and demography at a higher resolution than was previously feasible. However, even with more data, these topics are not without controversy.
This symposium will feature theoretical and empirical advances in studying the interplay between demography and selection using genomic data. It will include a timely discussion of complex population genetic models that simultaneously model both processes. This symposium will be of interest to a broad audience because it will provide fresh perspectives on a classic and highly relevant topic in population genetics.



Short tandem repeats in the post-genomics age: Accurate typing, variability, evolution, and function

Organizers: Kateryna Makova, Neil Gemmell
Confirmed speakers: Yaniv Erlich

Short Tandem Repeats (STRs, also known as microsatellites) are highly variable, informative population genetics markers. They have been eclipsed by SNP markers because of the ease of genotyping the latter. However, roles in dozens of genetic diseases, and the recent demonstration that STRs modify gene expression and thus phenotypes, have renewed interest in the analysis, function, and evolution of these highly polymorphic and ubiquitous sequences. This symposium will focus on the renaissance in STR research, which has been driven by advances in sequencing
technology (e.g. long-read data) and bioinformatics software that now allow accurate genotyping of STRs from the Next Generation Sequencing data. These new approaches enable an unprecedented level of resolution in assessing microsatellite variability in populations and in individuals on a genome-wide scale, e.g. evaluation of individual susceptibility to diseases caused by STR alleles.
Recent genome-wide surveys have identified multiple STRs that can modulate expression levels and splicing of nearby transcripts. Thus, STRs provide a novel set of regulatory variants that can help explain the genetic architecture of gene expression and contribute to the heritability of complex traits.
Therefore, we expect this symposium to be of interest to a broad range of researchers in the fields of genome biology, molecular biology, and evolutionary biology.



Speciation genomics

Organizers: Polina Novikova, Ovidiu Paun
Confirmed speakers: Luca Comai, Christian Lexer

Speciation is a fundamental evolutionary process: this process involves every living organism and its rates mirror atmospheric and geological changes on Earth, but its mechanisms are still largely a mystery. Usually, speciation is defined by mating barriers, which can arise ether slowly, due to growing divergence between geographically or ecologically separated groups, or immediately, due to ploidy change.
Speciation research covers a broad array of scientific fields, starting from molecular and cellular biology to evolutionary biology. A rapidly growing amount of assembled genomes and transcriptomes make possible to study speciation in much more detail than before. Looking at patterns of genomic divergence, identifying footprints of selection, or mapping genes that are involved in reproductive isolation are just a few of the powerful genomic approaches that recently become available to study speciation. Today it is not rare that speciation research pushes the existing knowledge to frontiers of technologies and advanced algorithms.
This symposium will welcome research in model and non-model species integrating emerging themes and novel approaches, together with a reassessment of more traditional methodologies in order to understand why and how organisms diversify.



The biological impact of transposable elements

Organizers: Josefa González, Ellen Pritham
Confirmed speakers: Vera Gorbunova, Nelson Lau

Transposable elements are a diverse set of genetic elements able to integrate and often propagate within and between genomes. Transposable elements are found in nearly all organisms and often account for the bulk of their genetic material. As with so many areas of genetics, the advent of genomic technologies has revolutionized the study of transposable elements and their biological impact. This has led to an avalanche of important discoveries revealing new mechanisms through which transposable elements have shaped the chromosomal and regulatory architecture of genomes.
This symposium will showcase the impressive array of mechanisms through which mobile elements have shaped genomes and influenced the evolutionary trajectory of their host. By focusing on the biological impact of transposable element-induced mutations, we aim at designing a program that is appealing to researchers beyond the transposable element community.



The evolution of alternative splicing

Organizers: Julien Roux, Élodie Laine, Hugues Richard
Confirmed speakers: Chris Burge 

Post-transcriptional modifications of mRNAs by alternative splicing (AS) are thought to be an important road for evolutionary innovation. The advent of RNA-seq has enabled deep surveys of the splicing complexity across species. However, there are still large gaps in our understanding of the significance of AS evolution. This symposium aims at moving beyond simple comparisons of AS
events across species to the study of the functional impact of new isoforms during evolution.
We will highlight the latest advances in the field, notably related to the following questions:
• How did splicing evolve between species? What use can be made of the last sequencing technologies (e.g., long-reads) to describe the evolution of AS at an unprecedented resolution?
• Recent studies have highlighted that many isoforms are low-abundance and species-specific. What portion of AS might just represent “noise”? How could it influence the evolution of transcriptomes?
• What is the functional impact of AS on the evolution of proteins? E.g., does AS modulate proteinprotein interaction networks? What are the changes induced by AS on protein structures?



The golden age of Archaea: unveiling the diversity and evolution of the third Domain of Life

Organizers: Simonetta Gribaldo, Céline Brochier-Armanet
Confirmed speakers: Graeme Nicol

Since their discovery nearly 40 years ago, the Archaea have not stopped being one of the major challenges of Evolutionary Biology. From a cell biology and genomic point of view they represent chimeras of prokaryotic and eukaryotic features, which places them in a key position in the Tree of Life. They thrive in a wide variety of contrasted environments, from deep oceans to the human gut, and have occupied key roles in the setup of major biogeochemical cycles of the early Earth. The development of culture-independent genomics techniques is providing access to an ever-larger and so far inaccessible fraction of archaeal diversity. This leads to a number of exciting discoveries that are revolutionizing our vision of archaeal evolution, generating novel challenges to dissect the nature of the archaeal ancestor and the evolutionary trajectories that shaped this domain. The archaeal tree is being rapidly filled up with new branches constituting entire phyla and orders with novel characteristics, including a number of nanosized lineages representing new unexplored examples of genomic reduction. Novel genomic data has highlighted the existence of additional eukaryotic-like characters previously unsuspected in the archaea and puzzlingly scattered among different lineages, and re-launched the issue of their still unclear and debated role in eukaryogenesis.



The horizontal component of microbial evolution

Organizers: Tal Dagan, J. Peter Gogarten
Confirmed speakers: Uri Gophna

Microbes are found everywhere: in clouds and rain drops, on tree leaves, in soil and oceans, on and in our body. Bacteria are interesting research subjects not only due to their impact on human health dynamics and ecological transitions but also because of their genetic  characteristics. Unlike eukaryotes, their evolution comprises both vertical and horizontal components. Recombination at thespecies level plays a role in selective sweeps through the population, while inter-species lateral genetransfer has important implications to microbial adaptation and evolutionary transformations. The advance in high throughput sequencing methods has enabled to study the impact the horizontal component on microbial genome evolution at an unprecedented resolution. Research in this field covers a broad range of topics including the biology of DNA transfer mechanisms, the ecology of mobile genetic elements, experimental evolution of rapid adaptation, and phylogenetics of reticulation events.
We aim to include speakers presenting recent advances in the study of microbial evolution by horizontal gene transfer including both computational and experimental approaches.



The origins of multicellularity under the light of functional genomics

Organizers: Alex de Mendoza, Arnau Sebé-Pedrós
Confirmed speakers: Nicole King

The origin of multicellularity is one of the major evolutionary transitions in the history of life. But unicellular to multicellular transitions have occurred independently several times during eukaryote evolution. In the last decade, the sequencing of the genomes of multicellular species and their closest unicellular relatives allowed for the first time to investigate the molecular basis of the multicellular transitions by using comparative genomics. Nowadays, the rapid advance of functional genomics and the development of key species as model systems are pushing the question into a new level, going beyond genome content description. This offers a unique opportunity to functionally test hypotheses about the origin of multicellularity regarding genome regulation, gene function and the fundamentals of embryonic development.
In this symposium we will cover these new approaches to the question of the multicellular transition from a multidisciplinary perspective, including recent advances from several fields (transcriptomics, cell biology, epigenomics) in different eukaryotic lineages.



Untangling information, noise, and phylogenetic reconstruction in genome scale data

Organizers: K. W. Hilu, Jeffery Townsend, Arindam RoyChoudhury
Confirmed speakers: Tandy Warnow, Olivier Gascuel

Phylogenetic information and noise are central components in successful tree reconstruction as they can invariably impact tree resolution, support, and accuracy. As we attempt to resolve deeper, shorter internodes and estimate short branch lengths in the tree of life with genome-scale data sets, the magnitude of impact of these two components is accentuated considerably, as is the prevalence of conflicts among gene trees. These phylogenetic issues are greatly entangled with intrinsic gene features, e.g. gene mode and tempo of evolution, and are exacerbated by historic depth. A high rate of nucleotide substitution can obscure phylogenetic information, and sometimes yields noise at deep historic times. However, fast rates and genome-scale datasets also potentially yield much more information if modeled accurately, taxa are sufficiently sampled, and substitution rate is not so fast.
Thus, our symposium will be relevant to molecular evolution, phylogenetics and genomics. Recruited speakers will address theoretical and empirical studies relating to: 1) assessment of suitability of genomic regions across a spectrum of nucleotide substitution rates and selection pressure to resolve phylogenetic trees; 2) comparison between whole genome vs. “optimal genes” approaches, 3) evaluation of the effectiveness of current approaches/algorithms used in discerning sources of signal, noise and conflicts among phylogenetic trees, and 4) fast methods and algorithms for dating and phylogenetic reconstruction of large genomic data.



Within- and between-host viral evolution

Organizers: Richard A Goldstein, Stéphane Hué
Confirmed speakers: Oliver Pybus, Katia Koelle

Viruses are extremely diverse, containing RNA, DNA, and mixed genomes, replicating sexually or asexually, infecting animals, plants, bacteria, and even other viruses. They also cause significant morbidity and mortality, having a great impact on human health, economics, and culture. The phylodynamics and molecular evolution of viruses, both within and between hosts, can revel much about how the virus interacts with the host, how it spreads between hosts, and how it crosses host-species barriers. In addition, viral evolution provides us with a laboratory to study a variety of important issues in molecular evolution. Many virus families evolve extremely rapidly, allowing us too directly observe molecular evolution as it occurs. Viral-host interactions promote evolutionary ‘arms races’, one of the most important areas in co-evolution. Viruses experience a variety of different time-dependent types of selection, and undergo extreme changes in population size. Thus, virus evolution is interesting to a wide range of molecular evolutionary biologists, from researchers who develop general evolutionary theory to researchers who care about epidemics and pathogenesis.



Important dates

2014 Sept call for symposia

2014 Dec 10 call for abstracts, early bird registration opens

2015 Feb 8 abstract submission for oral presentation closes

2015 March 1 early bird registration closes

2015 Mar 29 abstract submission for poster presentation closes

2015 May 10 deadline for delegates to be included in abstract book

2015 June 21 online registration closes

2015 July 12-16 CONGRESS

2015 meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution / SMBE2015 | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien