Munch Lab

Research overview

The technological advances in genomic sequencing now make it possible to characterise the genetic variation of any living species. However, the interpretation of these vast amounts of data requires a deep understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms that produce the observed variation as well as computationally efficient methods for their analysis. By combining development of new genetic theory and efficient implementation of computations, my research program focuses on the fundamental mechanisms that produce genetic variation. I strongly believe that groundbreaking research in this field requires a highly collaborative approach and I happily maintain a international network of research partners.

Recent progress

2014-12-12-Cover-AvianTogether with a large group of researchers I recently published an analysis of 48 bird genomes. Along with other works from this consortium, published as a special issue by Science, the analysis of these full size genomes provides a highly resolved phylogenetic tree describing the rapid diversification of birds that followed the decline of the dinosaurs. The analysis also shows that many groups of birds exhibit high levels of incomplete lineage sorting, with the result that their phylogenetic relationships often change along the genomes.
September_CoverThe seven publications in 2014 also includes a paper in Genome Research showcasing new population genetic insights that let me measure the rate of genetic recombination in species ancestral to those living today. In a commissioned review, which made the front page of BioEssays, I elaborate on these ideas and describe how this new approach makes it is possible to gain new important insight into how the genome controls recombination and how recombination in turn influences genome evolution. My current work follows this line new line of research.

Current research

My overarching interest is in developing and applying population genetic methods on genome scale data sets to understand the forces that govern the evolution of genomes and the emergence of new species. I am currently working  on methods for inference of recombination patterns in ancestral populations that applies coalescent hidden Markov models to full genome data. I have published a recombination map of the human-chimpanzee ancestor that allowed me to study the changes recombination patterns that occurred in humans and chimpanzees since these species separated. I am currently working on extending this approach to all the species ancestral to the great apes and I expect that this analysis will expose how recombination patterns evolve and how recombination drives non-adaptive evolution of genomes.

Selected publications

A fine-scale recombination map of the human–chimpanzee ancestor reveals faster change in humans than in chimpanzees and a strong impact of GC-biased gene conversion
Munch K, Mailund T, Dutheil JY, Schierup MH
Genome Research (2014) 24: 467-47

Unraveling recombination rate evolution using ancestral recombination maps (Comissioned review)
Munch K, Schierup MH, Mailund T
BioEssays (2014) 36:9 892–900

The bonobo genome compared with the chimpanzee and human genomes
Prüfer K, Munch K, Hellmann I, Akagi K, Miller JR, Walenz B, Koren S, Sutton G, Kodira C, Winer T, Knight JR, Mullikin JC, Meader SJ, Ponting CP, Lunter G, Higashino S, Hobolth A, Dutheil J, Karakoc E, Alkan C, Sajjadian S, Catacchio CR, Ventura M, Marques-Bonet T, Eichler EE, Andre C, Atencia R, Mugisha L, Patterson P, Siebauer M, Good JM, Fischer A, Ptak SE, Lachmann M, Symer D, Mailund T, Schierup MH, Andres AM, Kelso J, Paabo S
Nature (2012) 486 527-31

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