Genomic basis of stress tolerance (StressGenomics)

Main funder

Funds granted by main funder (€)

536 781,00

Funding program

Academy Project, AoF (Academy of Finland)

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2019

Project end date: 31/08/2023


Environmental stress experienced by organisms is one of the key mechanisms effecting species survival and distribution. However, even after decades of genetic research, it is still a major challenge to understand how organisms cope with varying environmental conditions at the molecular level and how the key genetic mechanisms are involved in stress responses. In this project, we will investigate how crucial genome level mechanisms, chromosomal inversions, activity of transposable elements (TEs) and alternative splicing (AS) of the genes affect species ability to response to environmental stress. Most notably, we will focus on the interaction between these factors at the genomic, genetic and phenotypic levels, to gain information on their possible role as drivers of rapid adaptation to changing environments. These questions are more timely than every as we are currently focusing a massive change in the climatic conditions all over the world. Moreover, knowledge of genomic basis of stress tolerance and ability of adaptation will be crucial when investigating species invasions including spreading of the pest species to new areas and the ability of genetically modified organisms to adapt different ecosystems.

Our study object, Drosophila montana, is a very stress tolerant insect species surviving up to 6 months at subzero temperatures during overwintering, but also living in high temperatures during summers. Here, we will use 3rd generation sequencing techniques together with our existing genome resources to collect extensive novel data from chromosomal inversions, TEs and splicing and their connections at genomic level using wild collected flies from widespread populations. We will also utilize RNAi and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing methods to verify the function of key stress genes and TEs in stressful conditions. Transgenic flies with specific mutations will be used in multiple phenotypic stress tolerance tests to follow the physiological consequences of the mutations. Finally, we will model the protein structure of the most interesting gene transcripts and TEs to make predictions of the structural variations explaining their existence.

The project has a great potential to lead to a breakthrough in understanding crucial genetic mechanisms and their interaction behind the stress tolerance. Ability to tolerate stress is also eventually involved in host-pathogen interactions as well as in resistance to pesticides and antibiotics bringing this research importance, which extends beyond the field of evolutionary genetics.

Principal Investigator

Primary responsible unit

Last updated on 2019-19-06 at 07:31