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15 Oct 2010 (workshop)
10-15 Oct 2010 (conference and related meetings)
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Supported by Cologne University's Collaborative Research Centre


Abstracts are here


Final update

The workshop was moved to a bigger room by EICC
(no longer "Carrick 1-3" suite, finally in "Tinto" room).

To find EICC, see ICSB travel info or Google maps.


By bridging the genotype-phenotype gap, molecular systems biology approaches have the potential to provide new insights into eminent
problems in evolutionary genetics including the adaptive landscape.
Realistic computational models of biological systems that predict
fitness correlates and their calibration with wet-lab data are vital
for progress in the emerging field of evolutionary systems biology.

This workshop continued to explore topics that were discussed at the 2009 ESEB symposium on evolutionary systems biology. A set of highly interesting talks and posters explored how evolutionary genetics and systems biology could be brought together. We had a focused half-day workshop with in-depth discussions and networking, which continued in a smaller group at the workshop dinner.

A blog post meeting report from one of the participants can be found here.

Workshop program 15 Oct 2010 (Abstracts are here)

  • 12:30 Prepare
    - Setting up and viewing posters in room "Tinto".
  • Session 1 (12:55 - 14:50; room "Tinto")

    12:55 Welcome by Laurence Loewe

    13:00 Invited Talk by Prof. John Yin:
    Genetic and environmental impacts on the fitness of an RNA virus: computational models and wet-lab experiments
    Systems Biology Theme Leader, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery,
    Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering,
    University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA (Homepage)

    13:30 Talk by Pedro Beltrao:
    Evolution of phosphoregulation: from interactions to function

    13:50 Talk by Nicholas K. Priest:
    The role of compensatory mutation in the evolution of gene regulatory networks

    14:10 Talk by Craig Maclean:
    The fitness effects of antibiotic resistance mutations: insights from systems biology

    14:30 Talk by Laurence Loewe:
    Evolutionary systems biology and the distribution of mutational effects in the circadian clock of Ostreococcus

  • Coffee break + Poster viewing (14:50 - 15:30)
    in room "Tinto".

  • Session 2 (15:30 - ca. 17:50; room "Tinto")

    15:30 Invited Talk by Prof. Juliette de Meaux:
    Asymmetric distribution of cis-regulatory differences reveal extant epigenetic differences between Arabidopsis genomes
    Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity
    University of Münster, Germany (Homepage)

    16:00 Talk by Chris Knight:
    Evolution of an environmental response network

    16:20 Talk by David Alvarez-Ponze:
    Comparative genomics of the vertebrate insulin/TOR signal transduction pathway genes: A network-level analysis of selective pressures along the pathway

    16:40 Talk by Aurelien Mazurie:
    Evolution of metabolic network organization

    17:00 Talk by Marco J. Morelli:
    Multiscale modeling of viral micro-evolution using next-generation sequencing data

  • 17:20 Discussion (moderated by Loewe; room "Tinto")
    We had an open discussion at the end of the workshop, which mostly focussed on the question "What is EvoSysBio?". The discussion started with the definition
    "EvoSysBio brings together a mechanistic understanding of individuals and a mechanistic understanding of evolution with the goal of quantifying evolutionary hypotheses more precisely",
    as proposed by Loewe. In the course of the discussion it became clear that it was easy to capture some aspects of EvoSysBio in such a catchy definition phrase, but any comprehensive definition could no longer be brief, as too many additions would be required, each of them perfectly justifiable. For example, what about ecology in the definition above or comparisons of biochemical networks between speices?
    There is a tension between making the definition as general as possible (to include all relevant fields) or as specific as possible (to maybe highlight particular techniques). At the end of the discussion it was not precisely clear how to resolve this tension. One possibility might be to focus on the goal of "quantifying evolutionary hyptheses more precisely", but that needs more explanations too.
    We also discussed the question as to whether enough details would ever be known to construct ideal models. There was a sense of agreement that we have to try in order to find out where the limitations are.

  • ca. 17:50 Official end
    Informal discussion and poster viewing continue as needed

  • ca. 18:45 Take posters down

  • 19:00 Leave building

  • 19:30 Workshop dinner
    (not sponsored; venue is "Bar Italia" in walking distance of the EICC workshop location (directions))

  • Posters:

    Poster 1 by Tamas Korcsmaros:
    Comparison of signaling pathway proteins and the analysis of their evolutionary rate reveal the role of cross-talking proteins in three metazoans

    Poster 2 by Sam Farrell:
    Adaptive evolution in the Pseudomonas fluorescens Wsp signalling pathway

    Poster 3 by Giovanni Marco Dall'Olio:
    N-linked glycosylation as a model to study positive selection on a gene pathway

Poster 4 by Aurelien Mazurie:
Evolution of metabolic network organization

Poster 5 by Marco J. Morell:
Multiscale modeling of viral micro-evolution using next-generation sequencing data


Detailed description of the workshop

Much work in current systems biology aims at obtaining an integrated quantitative understanding of functional molecular details. These efforts build on the impressive achievements of molecular biology in elucidating mechanistic details required for constructing corresponding models of individuals.

Evolutionary genetics has a long history of successful quantitative modelling in areas where functional molecular details can be abstracted as selection coefficients.

EvoSysBio aims at bringing these two fields together in order to construct novel models and hypotheses that inform our understanding of both evolution and how the systems of life work mechanistically.

A key goal of EvoSysBio is to extend quantitative molecular systems biology models to facilitate the computation of fitness correlates, which might help quantify selection coefficients. Fitness correlates are quantifiable properties of systems biology models that are likely to have an impact on fitness and are thus probably under selection.

Building on the successful Symposium on Evolutionary Systems Biology at the 2009 ESEB Congress in Turin, this workshop aims to explore further possibilities for constructing such models. We aim to bring together molecular systems biology results and evolutionary genetics results as well as simulations and experimental analyses of the corresponding systems. Combining the two subfields is crucial to our understanding of the evolution and mutational robustness of biological systems.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together an interdisciplinary community of researchers who have contributed to or are interested in contributing to a synthesis of evolutionary genetics and functional properties in molecular systems.

We believe that current systems biology provides an excellent opportunity for progress in many fundamental evolutionary questions. But although systems biology models have become increasingly available in the past few years, that opportunity has yet to be fully exploited by systems biologists.

If systems biology models that are being constructed now can be extended to include fitness correlates, they become powerful tools for investigating evolutionary adaptive landscapes. A potentially useful framework for this has been described recently (Loewe 2009, A framework for evolutionary systems biology. BMC Systems Biology 3:27, Journal Link ).

Thus, organising an interdisciplinary workshop on evolutionary systems biology is highly timely and could facilitate the generation of novel research agendas that advance both our understanding of evolution and systems biology.

Besides talks and posters we want to have time for discussions with enough space to explore new ideas.


Workshop organizers

Dr. Laurence Loewe (email)
Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh
School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK

Prof. Martin Lercher
Chair for Bioinformatics, Institute for Informatics
Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany

Dr. Chris Knight
Faculty of Life Sciences, University Manchester, UK