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Mar Albà

Mar Albà

Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques

Life & Medical Sciences

Mar Albà graduated in Biological Sciences at the University of Barcelona (UB), and obtained her PhD at the same University in 1997. During 1997-1999 she studied for the MSc in Bioinformatics and Molecular Modeling at Birkbeck College while working as a postdoctoral researcher in the group of John Hancock at the MRC Clinical Research Centre, in London. Later she joined the group led by Paul Kellam at University College London to develop new computational tools to study herpesvirus evolution and function. She was awarded a Ramón y Cajal tenure track position in 2002 to work at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). In 2005 she was appointed ICREA Research Professor. She works at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and has taught bioinformatics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra for 20 years. She has directed 11 doctoral thesis and is author of more than 90 publications.

Research interests

As a result of a continuous process of gene birth and death, the genomes from different species contain different sets of genes. Some of these genes encode new functional proteins and facilitate the adaptation to a changing environment. Some new genes originate by gene duplication, but others emerge de novo from previously non-coding genomic sequences. We study the different mechanisms of gene birth using a combination of comparative genomics, high throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) and ribosome profiling data (Ribo-Seq). We have shown that transcription and translation are pervasive and result in many putative precursors of novel proteins. We are aiming at a quantitative and qualitative description of the still poorly understood process of de novo gene formation.

Selected publications

– Blevins WR, Ruiz-Orera J, Messeguer X, Blasco-Moreno B, Villanueva-Canas JL, Espinar L, Diez J, Carey LB, Albà MM. 2021, ‘Uncovering de novo gene birth in yeast using deep transcriptomics’, Nature Communications, 12, 1, 604.

– Moro SG, Hermans C, Ruiz-Orera J & Albà MM 2021, ‘Impact of uORFs in mediating regulation of translation in stress conditions’. BMC Mol Cell Biol 22: 1, 29.

– Hernández-Fernández J, Pinzón Velasco AM, López Barrera EA, Rodríguez Becerra M, Villanueva-Cañas JL, Albà MM & Mariño Ramírez L 2021. ‘De novo assembly and functional annotation of blood transcriptome of loggerhead turtle, and in silico characterization of peroxiredoxins and thioredoxins‘, PeerJ, 9, e12395.

– Senís E, Esgleas M, Najas S, Jiménez-Sábado V, Bertani C, Giménez-Alejandre M, Escriche M, Ruiz-Orera J, Hergueta-Redondo M, Jiménez M, Giralt A, Nuciforo P, Albà MM, Peinado H, del Toro D, Hove-Madsen L, Götz M and Abad M. 2021.‘TUNAR lncRNA Encodes a Microprotein that Regulates Neural Differentiation and Neurite Formation by Modulating Calcium Dynamics’. Front. Cell Dev. Biol., 9:747667.

Selected research activities

Mar Albà has been invited to give talks at the following conferences:
1. New Trends to personalize immunotherapy in cancer (IMIM/Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, April 9 2021),
2. Annual Meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (online international conference, July 5 2021) and,
3. The 43rd Meeting Sociedad Española de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular (online, July 20 2021).

She has also given seminars at the University of Leeds (March 22 2021), ETH Zürich (May 18 2021) and Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (UPF-CSIC, Sep 16 2021).

She has published a Behind the Paper blogpost “Identification of recently evolved genes in yeast” in the Nature Ecology and Evolution Community Blog, explaining the research underlying the paper “Uncovering de novo gene birth in yeast using deep transcriptomics” (Blevins et al., 2021, Nature Com)(Jan 27 2021).

ICREA Memoir 2021