Research interests

Our view on organismal evolution is intimately connected to our understanding of how genomes and the encoded information change over time, and how this translates to the phenotypic and functional characteristics of contemporary species. The sequencing of entire genomes and transcriptomes from species covering all major groups in the tree of life has lifted the data basis for evolutionary research with a functional perspective to an unprecedented level. In its combination, this data facilitates access to the full repertoire of information stored in a species’ genome and allows unraveling individual cellular programs translating genetic information into a diverse set of functions. However, the effort connected to the experimental functional characterization of even considerably few proteins in the lab is still enormous. It is for this reason that exhaustive functional studies are limited to few and well established model organisms, many of which are of economical or medical relevance. More often only individual pathways are studied in niche model organisms featuring a particular trait of interest. However, for the vast majority of species only a draft genome assembly or transcript data is available without further experimental support. In these instances the in silico prediction of genes together with a subsequent tentative transfer of functional annotation from corresponding sequences in experimentally characterized model organisms provides the only source of functional information. Integrating all available information into a comprehensive picture of organismal and functional evolution is the common denominator of the individual projects in our group.

More specifically, we concentrate on the following main topics:       Expand all...

1)   Deep phylogenies and phylogenetic profiling


2)   Functional annotation transfer


3)   Phylostratigraphy and evolution of gene interaction networks.


4)   Source of genetic and functional innovation

The evolution of genomes and their functions cannot be exhaustively assessed on the level of individual species. Rather the interplay between members of multi species communities has to be taken into account. Of particular interest to us is the question of how individual species accomplish the genetic innovation facilitating the adaptation to sometimes extreme environments. In a DFG funded project to trace the evolution of pathogenicity in Acinetobacter baumannii (2251/1) we are investigating the relevance of recruiting pre-existing functional modules from other species via lateral acquisition of the corresponding genes (link to FOR web page). More specifically, we are interested in the relevance of natural competence for bacterial evolution, that is the capability of bacteria to directly uptake and utilize environmental DNA.

In a second project we want to shed light on the consequences of (obligate) symbiosis on the molecular evolution of the involved partner organisms. Currently, we are sequencing and assembling the metagenome of the lichen Lasallia pustulata that can conquer harsh environments such as pure rocks and withstands repeated periods of hyper- and dehydration. However, when isolated the photobiont and the mycobiont grow either poorly or not at all, even when cultivated under optimal conditions. Aim of this project is to identify the genetic changes underlying this mutual functional complementation and dependency. The lichen project is done in cooperation with the group of Imke Schmidt at the BIK-F.

5)   Development of software and workflows for biological sequence analysis





Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main

Department for Applied Bioinformatics

Institute for Cell Biology and Neuroscience

Prof. Dr. Ingo Ebersberger

Max-von-Laue Str. 13
D-60438 Frankfurt

Phone   +49 69 798 - 42112

Anne Hänel
Campus Riedberg
Biologicum; Room 3.205
Phone   +49 69 798-42110

How to reach us