Dr Mirko Pegoraro (Research Associate)

Research Interests

My main interest is the study and understanding of evolution through natural selection. I seek to understand evolution at multiple levels, from its molecular mechanisms to a possible epigenetic component. A deep understanding of the relationship between genes, their function, their evolution, shall give us a better chance to explain animal and human behaviour and will reveal once again the beauty of nature.

One of the model system of my expertise is the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Flies are model organisms for studying neurogenetics, molecular evolution and behavioural genetics. The combination of these studies can lead to elucidate molecular mechanisms of animal behaviour.

Since life began four billion years ago, organisms were subjected to continuous night day cycles that most probably drove the selection of a molecular clock that allow them to anticipate daily variation in environmental clues. It is possible to recognize a molecular mechanism that generates circadian rhythms of behaviour, metabolism and physiology in all higher organisms and in some prokaryotes. Not only had I studied the circadian system in Drosophila melanogaster but also in non model organisms like the wasp Nasonia vitripennis and the silk moth Bombyx mori.

The photoperiodic adaptation of animals that inhabit temperate climate is very interesting from an evolutionary point of view and to monitor climate changes. From this prospective I am involved in the study of the photoperiodic diapause and cold adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster.

Alongside Drosophila melanogaster I used the non model organism Nasonia vitripennis to investigate the role of DNA methylation and other epigenetic “markers” in the photoperiodic timing. This fascinating jewel wasp, in fact, shows a maternally induced diapause in response to winter-like days.

Although many imprinted genes are described in several lineages, the phenomenon of genomic imprinting presents a peculiar evolutionary problem. Haig's kinship theory explains the observed pattern of imprinting and the resulting phenotypes as a competition for resources between related individuals, but despite its relevance it has not been independently tested. Haig's theory predicts that gene imprinting should be present is eusocial insects in many social scenarios and I am intrigued by the possibility to test the theory predictions as well as the mechanism of genomic imprinting in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris

Another subject that has recently won my attention is the post transcriptional pre translational regulation of expression mediated by microRNAs. I am studying these fascinating molecules both in relation to the circadian and photoperiodic systems.

I have also been involved in studies of sleep, memory, learning and shift work.

My researches have been founded by NERC, BBSRC and University of Padova.

 

more about my research

Curriculum vitae

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Contact Details

Department of Genetics
University of Leicester

Adrian Building
University Road
Leicester
LE1 7RH
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3374
Fax: +44 (0)116 252 3378
E Mail: genetics@le.ac.uk

Head of Department
Professor Alison Goodall

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