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Daniel Chourrout, PhD


Director General of the Sars Centre, Group Leader

In collaboration with the Thompson group at the Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology, we have been developing a new model organism, Oikopleura dioica, a member of the closest extant sister group to vertebrates that presents fascinating perspectives in the study of genome plasticity. Through close cooperation with Genoscope (Evry, France) and mutliple international collaborations, we have analyzed the Oikopleura genome and showed its profound evolution from chordate ancestors, for multiple components. These include the level and pattern of genome compaction, mobile elements, lineage-specific gene duplications, syntenies and intron-exon organizations. Genome exploration has shown the high plasticity of genome architecture under rapid evolution possibly governed by high mutation rate. Major findings were the repositioning of tunicates as sister group of vertebrates, the Hox cluster disintegration and data supporting mechanisms of intron gain and propagation within genes.