Research projects in Leos Kral’s lab
- The assembly and annotation of the Tallapoosa darter genome. This is a first step in utilizing entire genomic sequences to fully understand the evolution of the more than 200 extant darter species and to also understand the adaptive genetic differentiation that defines these species. It is hoped that this project may spark the formation of a consortium of research labs to eventually form a database of genomes of all the darter species (www.dartergenomics.org)
- Analysis of the evolution of the Centromeric Protein A gene (CENP-A) in darters. This is a histone 3 like protein that is present in nucleosomes that define the centromere and is the nucleus of the formation of the kinetochore. The CENP-A protein has been shown to undergoes adaptive evolution in many species of animals and plants. In darters, a portion of the N-terminal tail of CENP-A shows signs of adaptive evolution. The N-terminal tail has been shown to be important to meiotic centromeric function in Arabidopsis and, potentially, adaptive changes in the N-terminal tail sequence could act as reproductive barriers leading to speciation by reinforcement.
- The genomes of three other darter species have now ben sequenced and the analysis of the evolution of other centromeric proteins is being carried out to understand if co-evolution of CENP-A and any of the the other centromeric proteins is taking place.
- Assembly and characterization of the Tallapoosa darter mitochondrial genome and the evolutionary comparison of this mitochondrial genome to other Percid mitochondrial genomes that have been sequenced.