Control of organ growth and identity during development and evolution

Control of organ growth and identity during development and evolution


How do organs control their size? Animals are characterized by their morphology –to such an extent that most often we recognize different species for their unique shapes and sizes (a manifestation of the specialized functions of the animal’s organs). Since organs are the product of development, mechanisms must exist to ensure the constancy of organ size and shape within a given species. However, these mechanisms need also to be plastic, as organ morphology has varied –and in some instances, very remarkably- during evolution. Despite this being a long-standing question in biology –how do organs know their size, and how do they determine when to stop growing- we are not close to have a definite answer.

In the lab we investigate the mechanisms that regulate organ size by studying the eyes of flies. Eyes, because they are specialized sensory structures of great biological relevance; and specifically of flies because eyes have undergone an extraordinary morphological and functional diversification within this huge insect group –the diptera. Our workhorse is the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, one of the most powerful model organisms, and use it as paradigm from which to explore the eyes of close and far relatives. Exploring the mechanisms of organ growth control is interesting beyond the realm of developmental and evolutionary biology, as they are relevant for understanding the causes of congenital diseases and cancer, as well as for organ engineering.

Our research uses a variety of approaches, including developmental genetics, genomics, genome editing, quantitative imaging, and mathematical modeling.



July 6, 2018. And Manuel Jiménez passed his Final Grade Research Project (“TFG”) with flying colors. Congrats to Manuel as well.

July 4, 2018. Ana Alcaina and Javier Figueras defended their Masters theses -glorious seminars! and very good marks! Congrats to both.

March 2, 2018. Nico Posnien (right), from Göttingen University, visited the lab. Here discussing eye size with Max Sánchez-Aragón

January 30, 2018 (already!): Buzzing lab

Dec 14: Interested in understanding how organ size is controlled during development and regeneration? or how size varies during evolution? Come and join us: apply for a Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral contract. Please, send a letter of interest plus CV to BEFORE Dec 30.

Dec 12: After Xmas lunch drinks. Great lab!!

Isabel Almudí and Fer Casares attended this year’s EVODEVO UK meeting at the Natural History Museum.