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.
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.
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.
Funded research projects
Pilot analysis of next-generation epigenetic biomarkers of brevetoxin exposure during Florida Red Tides in Eastern Oyster.
Histone H2A.X and H2A.Z variants of bivalve molluscs: chromatin structure, evolution and applications in genotoxicity tests.
Study of the evolution of metazoan animals through the analysis of chromatin dynamics and the histone code.
Molecular and evolutionary characterization of core and linker histone variants: mechanisms involved in altered chromatin conformations arising from pathological states - CHROMEVOL
The breadth of Chromevol research is illustrated by the following collaborative efforts with other groups.
In other research grants