Strategic Research Multicellgenome Lab (MCG Lab)

Multicellgenome Lab (MCG Lab)

We want to unravel how animal multicellularity emerged from our common unicellular ancestor. In order to understand this transition, we study our unicellular phylogenetic-siblings, the holozoans, which hold the key to discerning what we have inherited from our ancestor and what is unique in us. To conduct our research, we use genomics (comparative, functional), cell biology, proteomics and phylogenetics. Given there is no appropriate model organism for studying this transition, we are developing tools to convert these organisms into experimentally tractable model systems. 

Main projects

  • 1.

    PREMETAZOANEVOLUTION. Unravelling the unicellular prehistory of metazoans by functional analyses and single-cell genomics

    Its main goal is to push forward the two model systems developed in the previous ERC Grant to understand the unicellular-to-multicellular transition. In particular, we aim to infer, by cell biology and functional genomics, the ancestral function of genes key to multicellularity in order to understand how they were co-opted. In addition, we analyze the level of gene regulation in premetazoan lineages. Finally, we use single-cell genomics to understand the ecology, distribution and adaptation of uncultured unicellular lineages that are close relatives to animals.

  • 2.

    Origins, diversification and diversity of metazoa, funghi and its unicellular relatives; an evolutionary and ecological approximation

    The project consists on two parts. On the one hand, it will be carried the molecular categorisation of different unicellular species and its posterior comparison of the changes associated with the transition to multicellularity. Moreover, it will be identified the diversity of basal marine metazoa and its closest-related unicellular organisms. On the other hand, it will be studied how transposable elements have influenced the evolution of gene regulation mechanisms of stress-reaction and innate immune response, comparing Drosophila and humans.

  • 3.

    Screening marine microeukaryotes for their amenability for genetic tool development

    It aims to screen marine holozoa for transformability. In particular, it aims to screen key marine representatives from three different holozoan lineages (filasterea, ichthyosporea and corallochytrea). It is only through the development of new model taxa that significant comparative analyses can be carried to fully understand the diversity and complexity of the eukaryotic cell, which represents the most complex cell among the three domains of life.



Bioinformatics expertise:

Group Leader:

Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo

Principal Investigator


Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo