Yeasts represent a quite divergent group of fungi that predominantly exist as unicellular organisms. They include important industrial organisms, that have been used for many centuries, pathogens, and popular laboratory organisms that serve as general models to understand the eukaryotic cell. For decades Saccharomyces cerevisiae, baker's yeast, has been one of the best characterized organisms from the genetical and physiological point of view. On the other hand, only a limited number of yeasts has so far been studied in the laboratory. The focus of our yeast research is on the molecular biology and genetics of non-conventional yeasts whose properties are largely unknown.
In each organism genes are continuously duplicated, but most often one of the copies is subsequently removed from the genome. However, when a set of parallel genes is created, preservation can be achieved by either of two mechanisms:
- origin of a new function by one of the duplicated genes
- partitioning of the ancestral function(s) between the two duplicated genes
We study genes and enzymes, from a number of organisms, involved in metabolism of nucleic acids precursors, and the role of gene duplications in their evolution: origin of novel functions upon gene duplications as in pyrimidine catabolic enzymes, and partitioning of the substrate specificity through specialisation of the duplicated copies as in deoxyribonucleoside kinases. These genes, enzymes, and precursors are also relevant for cancer research and gene therapy.
Several of our results have been patented and developed by private companies. See www.jubilekinase.com and ZGene.