The central goal of the research at the Eirin-Lopez’s Chromevol Lab at FIU is to study the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying organismal responses and adaptations to changes in the marine environment, most specifically those resulting from pollution (e.g., harmful algal blooms, oil spills, nutrient loading, etc.). We approach this objective by characterizing gene expression, patterns of DNA methylation and modifications of histone variants in ecologically and environmentally relevant organisms, notably molluscs and corals, among others. In doing so, our research will develop new tools useful for pollution biomonitoring and will inform management of marine resources, facilitating new approaches for their conservation.

Take a closer look to our research HERE.

 

Research lines

Bringing knowledge and public service together

Chromatin Structure and Function

One of the most amazing features of our genetic material is its ability to be packed and organized within a cell nucleus that is 200,000 times smaller. Indeed, each of us have enough DNA packed in its body to cover 8 times the diameter of the Solar System (100 billion kilometers of DNA). Such an extreme packing is possible thanks to the association between DNA and structural proteins, constituting a complex known as chromatin. Our work aims to study the components of chromatin in a broad range of organisms, tackling their role in the regulation of DNA metabolism, most notably gene expression and the maintenance of genome integrity.

Evolution of Genes and Genomes

The evolution of life into the myriad of shapes, colors and sizes found on Earth mirrors the presence of an extraordinary amount of genetic diversity. We are interested in unraveling the molecular mechanisms underlying the long-term evolution of the different genomic regions contributing to such variation, most importantly those including gene families involved in chromatin structure and regulation (such as histones, chaperones, protamines, etc). This information will help us elucidate the constraints governing the progressive specialization of genomes and the implications for the evolution of organismal biodiversity.

Environmental Epigenetics

Chromatin structure is dynamically modified in response to environmental signals, establishing different functional domains throughout the genome. These modifications represent epigenetic marks, triggering inheritable changes without requiring modifications in the DNA sequence. Therefore, epigenetics plays a fundamental role during adaptive responses to environmental signals. By investigating the nature and distribution of such marks we aim to: a) elucidate the way in which environmental factors influence phenotypic variation, and b) use this information to develop a new generation of biomarkers to study marine pollution.

 

Research Grants

Funded research projects

 

Pilot analysis of next-generation epigenetic biomarkers of brevetoxin exposure during Florida Red Tides in Eastern Oyster.

Funded by the Biomolecular Sciences Institute, FIU (2015 – 2016) – PI: Dr. Eirin-Lopez, Florida International University.

Histone H2A.X and H2A.Z variants of bivalve molluscs: chromatin structure, evolution and applications in genotoxicity tests.

Funded by the Spanish Government, Spain (2011 – 2014) – PI: Dr. Eirin-Lopez, The University of A Coruña, Spain.

Chromatin specialization in bivalve molluscs: evolutionary implications and potential applications.

Funded by the Xunta de Galicia, Spain (2010 – 2014) – PI: Dr. Eirin-Lopez. The University of A Coruña, Spain.

Study of the evolution of metazoan animals through the analysis of chromatin dynamics and the histone code.

Funded by the Spanish Government – MICINN, Spain (2010 – 2012) – PI: Dr. Eirin-Lopez. The University of A Coruña, Spain.

Molecular and evolutionary characterization of core and linker histone variants: mechanisms involved in altered chromatin conformations arising from pathological states - CHROMEVOL

Funded by a Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship (OIF – 021900) Research Project. Funded by the EU (European Union) within the 6th Framework Program (2005 – 2008) – PI: Dr. Eirin-Lopez, The University of A Coruña, Spain – University of Victoria, Canada.

The breadth of Chromevol research is illustrated by the following collaborative efforts with other groups.

 

Collaborations

In other research grants

 

Consolidation of the Galician Bioinformatics Network.

Funded by the Xunta de Galicia, Spain (2010 – 2011) – PI Coordinator: Dr. D. Posada. The University of Vigo, Spain.

NanoLINEN - Nanotoxicology link between India and European Nations.

Funded by ERA NET, New INDIGO, European Commission (2010 – 2012) – PI: Dr. B. Laffon. The University of A Coruna, Spain.

Evaluation of the effects of the marine toxin okadaic acid upon DNA damage response: impact on mussel harvesting and human health (EVALOA).

Funded by the Spanish Government – MICINN, Spain (2008- 2011) – PI: Dr. J. Mendez, The University of A Coruña, Spain.

Development of cytogenetic and molecular biomarkers in the clam Ruditapes decussatus under environmental stress - AMBSTRES

Funded by the Xunta de Galicia, Spain (2007 – 2010) – PI: Dr. J. Mendez. The University of A Coruña (Spain).

Identification of DNA markers in the clam Venerupis pullastra and applications in genetic variability and population genetics analyses - ALBA

Funded by the Xunta de Galicia, Spain (2006 – 2009) – PI: Dr. A. Insua. The University of A Coruña, Spain.

Role of linker histones, core histone variants, and their post-translational modifications in the folding of chromatin. Functional implications.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canada (2003 – 2008) – PI: Dr. J. Ausio, University of Victoria, Canada.

Chromatin and gene organization during spermatogenesis.

Funded by the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada (2002 – 2006) – PI: Dr. J. Ausio. University of Victoria, Canada.

Structure and chromosomal location of different genomic regions in the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis - MEGENOM

Funded by the Xunta de Galicia, Spain (2001 – 2003) – PI: Dr. J. Mendez. The University of A Coruña, Spain.