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Inferring the Universal Tree, or Network, of Life: Genomics, Supertrees, and Supernetworks.


The phylogenetic relationships of the primary lineages of life are still disputed. We propose to investigate these relationships and use the results of our analyses to study important questions relating to the early evolution of cellular life. To reach our objectives we will require developing new phylogenomic methods, and utilising them to make use of the complete information of all available completely sequenced genomes. The new phylogenomic methods will be based on already established phylogenetic methods (super-tree methods), and on new methods that will be introduced here (the super-network methods), which are generalisations of the standard super-tree methods. This project has important societal implications.

A greater understanding of the relationships of the primary lineages of life (particularly of the prokaryotic ones) will increase our ability to approach important biomedical and environmental problems. For example, this will allow monitoring the emergence of new diseases, and targeted drug design (as already shown in the case of viruses for SARS and the HIV-1). In addition, this will increase our understanding of biodiversity, and our investigations of the evolution of methanogenesis will contribute also to a better understanding of the human-driven global warming.

Outcomes of the project will be of both theoretical and applied interest. Advancements of theoretical interest will be achieved developing new phylogenetic and phylogenomic methods. Results of applied interest will be achieved using the newly developed methods to investigate both the phylogeny of the primary lineages of life, and specific problems relating to the early evolution of cellular life.

This project will enable a highly promising applicant to undertake advanced training through research in the European organisation most appropriate to his individual needs and best suited to the research topic. It will further strengthen the co-operation between EU-based centres of excellence.

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