Main Current Projects

  • Division of labour and the origin of multicellularity

(MULTICELL, funding by the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 (2014–2020) under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 657096)

Understanding the evolution of multicellularity and cellular differentiation/ complexity is one of the greatest challenges in biology. The oldest transition, that of cyanobacteria, has happened more than 3 to 3.5 billion years ago. Of particular interest is to determine the evolutionary processes and mechanisms underlying the evolutionary transition from single cells to multicellular organisms.
This project uses cyanobacteria as a model system to determine whether division of labour may drive the transition to multicellularity by eliminating the trade-off between two incompatible processes that cannot be performed simultaneously in one cell. To this end, the overall objectives are to follow the evolution of multicellularity in real time using unicellular cyanobacteria exposed to different selection pressures, and to reconstruct the order of events that might have happened during the transition to multicellularity in the earliest epochs of life’s history

  • Chronology of multicellularity evolution in cyanobacteria (with Giddy Landan, Tal Dagan, Fernando Tria)
  • The evolution of multicellularity: investigating first steps in unicellular cyanobacterial populations (with Si Tang; funded by a Chinese government scholarship)
  • Trajectories of plasmid persistence (with Tanita Wein, Tal Dagan)
  • The evolutionary transition to multicellularity (with Caroline Rose)
  • Microbial interactions within microbiomes (with Peter Deines)