Research

I graduated in Biology in Lisbon and made a PhD at the John Innes Centre and University of Oxford. In 2011 I moved to Switzerland, where I was a researcher and lecturer at the University of Zurich. My main research interests were understanding how genes and genomes evolve (particularly in plants).

Below is a selection of my scientific articles and reviews. For a full list of publications, please check my Google Scholar profile.

Quantitative genetics identifies cryptic genetic variation involved in the paternal regulation of seed development

PLoS Genetics 2016

Plant seeds develop after the fertilization and the fusion of parental and maternal genetic information. We used a combination of quantitative genetics and whole-genome sequencing to understand how maternal and paternal genes interact during plant seed development. We found that genes inherited from the father have a strong potential to control seed growth and size, but these effects are suppressed by genes inherited from the mother genome. I developed a novel method to map parent-specific effectors using whole-genome sequencing – the source code is available from GitHub, and a book chapter to be published later this year describes this in more detail.

Recruitment and remodeling of an ancient gene regulatory network during land plant evolution

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2013

Plants invaded land around 500 million years ago, and have since diversified into an endless number of forms, from mosses to grasses or redwoods. However, many genes are very similar across different plant species, raising the question of how different forms can arise from similar genes. We made comparative DNA and genetic analyses between flowering plants and moss species, and discovered that a genetic network that controls root development and the uptake of nutrients from the soil in crops had been recycled and rewired from an ancient genetic network that controlled cell patterning in algae and the first land plants.

Origin and Diversification of Basic-Helix-Loop-Helix Proteins in Plants

Molecular Biology and Evolution 2010

While working on my main PhD project, I made various phylogenetic analyses (comparing DNA sequences to retrace evolutionary relationships) of bHLH proteins (a large gene family present in animals and plants). Eventually I expanded these analyses to include all major groups of land plants, and demonstrated that most modern groups of bHLH proteins were already present in the algae ancestors of land plants. This work was published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, arguably the most prestigious journal on evolutionary biology: it has now received over 200 citations and is in the top 2% (citations) of all papers published since then in MBE.

Seed evolution: parental conflicts in a multi-generational household

BioMolecular Concepts 2014

In this article I discuss the evolution of seeds and the genetic and epigenetic processes that shape their development. I argue that many key innovations that resulted in the appearance of modern seeds were the result of a dynamic conflict of interests between maternal, paternal, and embryo genes.

Different yet similar: evolution of imprinting in flowering plants and mammals

F1000Prime Reports 2014

Genomic imprinting is an intriguing epigenetic mechanism that causes a differential expression of maternal and paternal genes in embryos. This mechanism evolved independently in mammals and in flowering plants, and has important roles in human genetic diseases and plant breeding and seed formation. In this review article we discuss the similarities and differences of genomic imprinting between plants and animals.

First plants cooled the Ordovician

Nature Geoscience 2012

This paper resulted from an interesting collaboration between climate scientists, geochemists and biologists. By estimating the chemical weathering that the first land plants had on terrestrial environments, this study went on to show that the consequent decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations would be enough to explain very large glaciations that occurred in the Ordovician Period, 500 million years ago.