Mitochondria are integral to many aspects of cellular function and we continue to discover new essential roles for mitochondria in cell physiology. Additionally, mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with an ever-increasing number of human diseases, and even underlies the process of aging and degeneration. Despite their importance, fundamental questions regarding mitochondrial biology and disease remain unanswered.
The Patel Lab takes a multi-disciplinary approach to study mitochondria within the evolutionary context of genetic conflict. Although genetic conflict is typically envisioned as occurring between host and a pathogen, it can also occur between genomes in the same cell. Our research focuses on the role of genetic conflict in mitochondrial biology and disease through investigation of mitochondrial interactions with three sources: pathogens, ‘selfish’ mitochondrial DNA, and the nuclear genome. We employ computational methods to infer adaptive evolution and perform comparative phylogenetics. We use genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, and high-throughput genomic approaches to test these evolution-inspired hypotheses.