23.04.2014 - 13:50
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The focus of the bioinformatics group is to use computational approaches to gain an insight into genome evolution in primates.

Comparative Primate Genomics

The bioinformatics group applies computational approaches to the analysis of primate genomes, with a focus the evolution of genomes, gene expression and gene expression regulation.

Members of the group currently participate in the Neandertal, Bonobo and Orang-utan genome projects (in collaboration with Svante Pääbo’s group and the Neandertal and Orang-utan genome consortia) where they are responsible for the processing, interpretation and databasing of sequence data from both the Roche (454) and Illumina (Solexa) high-throughput sequencing platforms.

Gene expression
The evolution of protein coding and non-protein-coding transcripts is a subject of ongoing investigation. We have shown that intergenic transcripts show patterns of tissue-specific conservation of their expression, which are comparable to exonic transcripts of known genes, suggesting that intergenic transcripts are subject to functional constraints that restrict their rate of evolutionary change to an extent comparable to that of classical protein-coding genes. We also observed that more than 50% of the differences in overall expression that are observed between these species originate from intergenic transcripts (Khaitovich, Kelso et al. 2006)
We are also investigating the roles of small non-coding RNAs and chromatin modifications in differences in gene expression between primates.


Ontologies now play a key role in the analysis and reporting of biological data and act as the basis for new biological services being hosted by various GRID projects. The ontologies group focuses on the application of ontologies in biomedicine with a view to improving the quality and extending the useability of the current set of biomedical ontologies. To this end we are developing:

  • novel top-level and core ontologies for biomedicine,
  • tools for community creation and editing of biomedical ontologies
  • criteria for the assessment of quality of biomedical ontologies
Other collaborative projects

The group has collaborated with Mario Mörl’s group (University of Leipzig) to elucidate the sequence and activity of a splice variant of the human CCA-adding enzyme (Lizano, Schuster et al. 2007), and with Mark Stoneking’s group (MPI-EVA) to identify loci that likely contribute to among-population human skin pigmentation differences (Myles, Somel et al. 2007).