The Jones group studies how variation in genome function in natural populations facilitates adaptation to different environments and the evolution of new species. We combine diverse functional genomic and population genomic techniques to study adaptive divergence in gene regulation, epigenomics, recombination, and adaptation from standing genetic variation. Our work leverages divergent natural populations and their hybrid zones in a powerful evolutionary model system: threespine stickleback fish.
Regulation of gene expression: The genomic basis of adaptation involves mostly non-coding, regulatory mutations. How do these mutations contribute to adaptation? We study the regulation of gene expression using RNAseq, allele-specific expression, CaptureC and functional transgenic assays.
Chromatin and the environment: The epigenome regulates gene expression allowing cells with the same DNA to achieve different functions. How do epigenome differences contribute to divergent adaptation in natural populations? We use chromatin and histone profiling to study and map the genetic basis of adaptive epigenome variation.
Recombination in adaptive evolution: Meiotic recombination shuffles the genome and impacts the rate of adaptation. We use linked-read gamete sequencing, ChIPseq and nuclear family sequencing, to study the molecular basis of variation in meiotic double-strand breaks and crossover hot- and cold-spots in diverging stickleback species.
Adaptation from standing genetic variation: Rapid adaptation to new environments often involves natural selection on pre-existing mutations. What facilitates and constrains the availability of this adaptive genetic variation? We study this by combining population genetic theory with empirical studies of rare alleles in thousands of genomes.
Compared to traditional model organisms, sticklebacks provide a powerful system to understand genome function in the context of natural populations and the environment.
Dr. Felicity Jones
FML Group Leader
see full publication list here
Our long term goals are to have mechanistic insight into the genome function in the wild. We aim to understand at a molecular level how the genome interacts with the environment to influence phenotype and adaptation. This genomic understanding provides important insight that will help us identify factors and processes that may facilitate and constrain the evolution of biodiversity.