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Nicola Illing | Evolution of Development

Research | Publications | Lab members

Professor Nicola Illing | Telephone +27 21 650 2414 | Facsimile +27 21 650 1861

My primary research interest is to use the tools of modern genetics to unravel the answers to interesting evolutionary biology questions, using examples from the rich biological landscape of southern Africa.   Genetic analysis of organisms that are currently alive can be used to delve into the past, for example, understanding how flight evolved in bats  50 million years ago.  Similarly, we are using next generation sequencing technology to understand how vegetative desiccation tolerance evolved in flowering plants and the genetic basis for the recent (i.e. in the last 5-8 million years) radiation of the morphologically diverse Ruschioideae family, which consists of more than 1600 succulent plant species. 

PhD Research Positions in Plant Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry or Bioinformatics

Selected publications
  1. Lyall R, Schlebusch SA, Proctor J, Prag M, Hussey SG, Ingle RA, Illing N. (2020).  Vegetative desiccation tolerance in the resurrection plant Xerophyta humilis has not evolved through reactivation of the seed canonical LAFL regulatory network.  Plant J. 101:1349-1367. doi: 10.1111/tpj.14596. PMID: 31680354
  2. Yuan C, Meng X, Li X, Illing N, Ingle RA, Wang J, Chen M. (2017). PceRBase: a database of plant competing endogenous RNA. Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Jan 4;45(D1):D1009-D1014. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkw916
  3. Eckalbar WL , Schlebusch SA,  Mason MK, Gill Z, Parker AV,  Booker  BM,  Nishizaki S,  Muswamba-Nday C, Terhune  E, Nevonen  K,  Makki N,   Friedrich T, VanderMeer JE, Pollard KS, Carbone L, Wall JD, Illing N, Ahituv N. (2016) Transcriptomic and epigenomic characterization of the developing bat wing. Nature Genetics. doi:10.1038/ng.3537
  4. Breen MS, Uhlmann A, Nday CM, Glatt SJ, Mitt M, Metsalpu A, Stein DJ, Illing N (2016) Candidate gene networks and blood biomarkers of methamphetamine-associated psychosis: an integrative RNA-sequencing report. Translational Psychiatry. 6:e802. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.67
  5. Booker B, Friedrich T, Mason MK, VanderMeer JE, Zhao J, Eckalbar WL, Logan M, Illing N, Pollard KS, Ahituv N. (2016) Bat accelerated regions identify a bat forelimb specific enhancer in the HoxD locus, PLoS Genetics28;12(3):e1005738. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.10057386
  6. Mason, M.K., Hockman, D., Curry, L., Cunningham, T.J., Duester, G., Logan, M., Jacobs, D.S., and Illing, N. (2015). Retinoic acid-independent expression of Meis2 during autopod patterning in the developing bat and mouse limb. EvoDevo 6:6. doi: 10.1186/s13227-015-0001-y.
  7. Lyall, R; Ingle, R. A. and Illing, N. (2014). The Window of Desiccation Tolerance Shown by Early-Stage Germinating Seedlings Remains Open in the Resurrection Plant, Xerophyta viscosa. PLoS ONE 9:3: e93093 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093093
  8. Tonnabel J, Mignot A, Douzery EJ, Rebelo AG, Schurr FM, Midgley J, Illing N, Justy F, Orcel D, and Olivieri I (2014) Convergent and correlated evolution of major life-history traits in the angiosperm genus Leucadendron (Proteaceae). Evolution.68(10):2775-92. doi: 10.1111/evo.12480.
  9. Schlebusch S, Illing N. (2012). Next Generation Shotgun Sequencing and the challenges of de Novo Genome Assembly SA J Science. 108: 8 pages   http:// v108i11/12.1256
  10. Ravasi DF, O’Riain MJ, Davids F, Illing N (2012) Phylogenetic Evidence That Two Distinct Trichuris Genotypes Infect both Humans and Non-Human Primates. PLoS ONE 7(8): e44187. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044187
Lab members

Postdoctoral fellows
Dorit Hockman

Rafe Lyall (PhD; co-supervised by Dr Robert Ingle, Dept Molecular and Cell Biology)
Stephen Schlebusch (PhD; co-supervised by Dr Jeff Wall, UCSF)
Evan Milborrow (MSc)
Ash Parker (MSc)