Irene Adrian-Kalchhauser, PhD
Research focus: The epigenetics of parental effects in wild species
My research is driven by the desire to understand the role of epigenetic inheritance in the fitness and adaptation of wild species. From theoretical studies, we know that parental effects have the potential to enhance species fitness and are therefore expected to evolve under specific conditions. From phenomenological studies, we know that organisms pass on more information to their offspring than just their genetic material. Parental effects have profound influence on offspring fitness. Epigenetic pathways such as histone modificiations, DNA methylation, and RNAs have been implied in parental effects.
My goal is to better understand which of these pathways is used under specific circumstances to convey specific types of information in wild and non-inbred species, particularly in vertebrates. The model I am currently using to tackle this question is an invasive fish species, the round goby Neogobius melanostomus. As an invasive species, the round goby is very adaptable and demonstrates superior fitness by outcompeting related invasive and native species in the invasive range. We have recently sequenced and assembled its genome to high quality. Now, we use the model to investigate the role of maternal RNA, DNA methylation and histone modification in adaptation.