Who we are and what we are interested in

The Origin and Evolution of Photosynthetic Eukaryotes

Our research group studies diverse aspects of the evolutionary history of plants and algae. We use comparative genomics and phylogenetics to untangle key cellular and molecular mechanisms associated to the establishment of endosymbiotic associations and, particularly, to elucidate the origin and evolution of photosynthetic organelles. 



Oxygenic photosynthesis evolved in cyanobacteria around 3 billion years ago. Later on evolution a certain eukaryote lineage recruited cyanobacteria as permanent endosymbionts. This ancient eukaryote-cyanobacteria association presumably gave rise to the first group of photosynthetic eukaryotes.


It has been hypothesized that all extant eukaryotes bearing plastids surrounded by two membranes, formally called Archaeplastida, descend from that first group of eukaryotes bearing plastids derived from captured cyanobacteria.

origin of primary plastids


December 13, 2018

Welcome to Cecilio!

Excited to tell you that Dr. Cecilio Valadez Cano has joined our group as postdoctoral researcher!


Cecilio will be developing diverse Flux Balance Analysis models to study the loss of photosynthesis in free-living algae and the evolution of the Paulinella chromatophora photosynthetic organelle. 


For now, Cecilio is understanding that from November to April -5°C  is considered a warm temperature in Atlantic Canada.

Some recent Cecilio's contributions:

Singer, A. et al. 2017. Massive Protein Import into the Early-Evolutionary-Stage Photosynthetic Organelle of the Amoeba Paulinella chromatophoraCurr Biol. 27:2763-2773.e5.

Valadez-Cano, C. 2017. Natural selection drove metabolic specialization of the chromatophore in Paulinella chromatophora. BMC Evol Biol. 17:99.

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The origin of primary plastid and the first photosynthetic eukaryotes

Diversity of photosynthetic eukaryotes


Despite the extraordinary diversity of photosynthetic eukaryotes, the vast majority of these lineages are directly or indirectly connected to a singular, presumably unique, ancient endosymbiotic association between an eukaryote and cyanobacteria.


There is compelling amount of data showing that after the single origin of primary plastids several secondary acquisitions and losses of photosynthetic organelles have generated an astonishing diversity of photosynthetic eukaryotes. We work with different algal and bacterial models to understand the evolution and early diversification of photosynthetic eukaryotes.