Research project

Population genomics and complex traits

Gianni LITI, Research Director, DR1 CNRS

Most human traits, including cancer susceptibility and ageing, are regulated by multiple interacting quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Dissecting the genetic mechanisms underlying this phenotypic variation is a major challenge. In order to advance our understanding of complex traits there is a need for a suitable genetic system that can be used in high-throughput studies. In our lab, we use the budding yeast, S. cerevisiae, to dissect the genetic architecture of multiple traits. The objectives are relevant for human health in two ways: the first consists of modelling complex traits in a simple genetic system; the second aims to dissect traits directly relevant to the complex biology of cancer and ageing. In all aspects of our research, we exploit natural variation in the budding yeast as a tool for understanding how a phenotype is genetically regulated. Given that many pathways (e.g. longevity) are conserved from yeast to humans, there is an opportunity to test previously uncharacterised genes in other model systems. Once the architecture of complex traits is fully dissected, the next step is to extrapolate this knowledge to make predictions (based on population genomics data) of the standing variation in natural populations. Finally, the long-term challenge is to understand what evolutionary forces maintain the variability in natural populations.

Research teams