We are the Evolutionary Biology group at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, led by Isabel Gordo.
All natural populations are constantly subject to new mutations, and frequently face novel environments, to which they adapt. However simple questions such as: What is the rate and distribution of fitness effects of beneficial mutations across environments? How does the evolutionary process proceeds in the context of an ecosystem? Still remain incompletely answered. The major goal of our lab is to contribute to answering these fundamental questions, using Escherichia coli, as our main model system.
This is a golden time to study adaptation. While in past years extensive effort at the theoretical level was put into understanding how natural selection works, the most important questions were posed and several models of adaptation were developed, in the recent years technological developments were made that permit putting theoretical predictions to experimental test. Our research aims to capitalize on such developments and extend previous theoretical models in the light of the data gathered.
E. coli is a typical commensal species of the human microbiota, which colonizes the gut within hours after birth. However, it can also cause severe health problems and even considerable mortality. Its high capacity for adapting to new and variable niches results in a versatile species with several distinct pathovars. A complete understanding of the steps that lead E. coli to evolve from commensalism to pathogenesis is an enormous task. In our group we integrate several methodologies, including comparative genomics, targeted mutagenesis, mathematical modeling and experimental evolution to contribute to understanding the commensal to pathogen transition.
We thank the following organisations for funding our research: