|Evolution of Chemical Defense Genes|
Defensive genes and pathways in an organism collectively allow the organism to sense, transform and eliminate chemicals, and maintain homeostasis in the face of a variable environment. These genes and pathways may be especially important early in development, when an organism must cope with the environment during sensitive stages prior to the maturation of defensive systems, including organ differentiation. Environmental chemicals handled by defensive proteins include microbial products, heavy metals, phytotoxins, and other natural products, as well as anthropogenic chemicals such as pesticides and synthetic hydrocarbon derivatives. Furthermore, externally and internally generated ROS and endogenously generated toxicants such as lipid peroxides and heme degradation products must also be transformed or eliminated.
I am engaged in phylogenomic investigations of defensome genes in animal species spanning all of Metazoa, with particular focus on marine species. We have previously published analyses of the sea urchin and sea anemone ‘defensome,’ including the CYP genes. As laboratory models, we use zebrafish, the marine killifish Fundulus heteroclitus, and the bivalve Mytilus edulis.