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Annual Meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution 2017
July 2nd - 6th 2017 Austin, USA

SMBE 2017 Symposia

1. Evolutionary genomics of structural variation

Rebekah L Rogers, Russ Corbett-Detig

Invited speakers: Aoife McLysaght, Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra

Structural Variants (SVs), which encompass duplications, deletions, and chromosomal rearrangements, are an important source of genetic variation in populations. They can form new gene sequences, alter regulatory patterns, or form new linkage groups to produce evolutionary change. With recent advances in next generation sequencing, SV studies have yielded new insights into the role these mutations play in adaptation. This symposium will exhibit the latest advances in evolutionary genetics of structural variants in natural populations.

2. Extracting insights from personal genomic data

The meeting would like to acknowledge the support of Embark Veterinary.




Adam Boyko, Adam Auton

Invited speakers: Andrew Clark, Alicia Martin

A central problem in evolutionary genetics is the mapping from genetic variation to variation at the phenotypic level. An important source of high quality data for tackling this problem comes from the medical genomics community, and as genotyping and sequencing become increasingly widespread, personalized genomics delivered through healthcare or direct-to-consumer services will be the primary source of raw genetic data for humans and companion animals. These tests offer consumers inferences of ancestry and relatedness, provide genetic prediction of disease risk and therapeutic response, and determine genetic variants responsible for observed phenotypes. This enterprise places a premium on the ability to accurately predict phenotypes from individual genetic profiles, and will provide a steep challenge for the development of new methods for doing so. Delivery of accurate prediction will be key for improving the utility and widespread adoption of personal genomics, and is therefore a key driver of the rate at which genetic data will be generated and the pace of genomic research in the future. This symposium discusses advances in the prediction of complex disease risk and ancestry deconvolution, developments in ethical and legal regulation, and the potential for improving personal genomics through the addition of epigenetic, metabolomics, and microbiomic data.

3. Probing microbiome dynamics

Nandita Garud, Sharon Greenblum

Invited speakers: Howard Ochman, Isabel Gordo

Microbiomes are comprised of many bacterial species with complex interactions and dependencies between community members. Adaptation of microbiomes to rapidly fluctuating environments can result in changes in species diversity and composition, as has been observed in patients with Crohn’s disease and asthma. Individual species within the microbiome experience adaptation too, as evidenced by single-species studies of adaptation in response to specific conditions, for example the evolution of Burkholderia dolosa over the course of an outbreak, or the virulent transformations of E. coli in response to nutrient limitation. How these strain-level dynamics play out in a community setting, and what the strain-level signatures of adaptation are in the microbiome, remain open questions. Only recent technological breakthroughs have provided the means to leverage metagenomic data to understand signatures of adaptation at the strain level, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms and gene copy number variants. Such information will illuminate the evolutionary forces shaping microbiome diversity, transforming in turn our ability to manipulate the microbiome to benefit host health. This symposium will focus on probing signatures of adaptation in the microbiome, with special attention paid to novel data sources, statistical methodology, and biological examples.

4. Mechanisms of protein evolution

Benjamin Jack, Ashley Teufel

Invited speakers: Jesse Bloom, Mary O’Connell

Protein evolution is governed by a wealth of interacting processes spanning from the population level to the physico-chemical. When a mutation appears in a protein coding sequence, its ultimate fate in a population depends in part on its effect on binding partners, functional sites, folding and stability, and expression. Even subtle modifications to any of these components can have downstream effects on the systems level processes that influence individual fitness. Although these molecular processes occur within an individual, their evolutionary consequences are determined by the population into which they were cast. This symposium highlights views of protein evolution which merge biophysical, systems biology, and/or population genetics principles. Here, we showcase recent efforts to integrate multiple biological layers to produce cohesive views of lineage specific divergence. Special consideration is given to works that detail examples of functional shifts or co-evolutionary processes. 

5. Mechanisms of phenotypic evolution

Raquel Assis, Melissa Wilson Sayres

Invited speakers: Daniel Weinreich, Joe Thornton

This symposium aims to bring together researchers addressing a question of central importance in evolutionary biology: How do new phenotypes arise? The advent of next-generation sequencing technologies, development of sophisticated methods for genomic engineering, and significant advancements in computational power have finally brought the answer to this age-old question within reach of evolutionary biologists. However, having a tangible goal is not necessarily without its limitations. These include broad issues such as defining and quantifying biological function, as well as specific hurdles such as designing targeted experiments and powerful quantitative methods for analyzing diverse biological datasets. Thus, we invite speakers to present work in which they have developed and applied creative approaches to interrogate how phenotypic evolution occurs. Though the range of accepted topics and study systems will be wide, of particular interest is research that has helped bridge the gap between genotypic and phenotypic evolution by elucidating the mechanisms and forces driving phenotypic change.

6. Evolutionary systems biology of cells

Laurence Loewe, Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis

Invited speakers: Michael Lynch, Trey Ideker

Cells are the basic units of life. Decades of research in molecular, cell, and systems biology have accumulated impressive insights into the molecular mechanisms of life, but the biodiversity of cellular systems remain vastly under-explored despite its critical role in evolution. Building on successful models of well-known cells in controlled environments, this symposium aims to bring together cell biologists, systems biologists, evolutionary biologists, and others interested in advancing models of evolution at the cellular level. This focus on cellular systems celebrates the latest advances in the relentless Evolutionary Synthesis that started with Fisher (1918) and has been continuing whenever evolutionary biologists study complex biological systems to achieve an integrative understanding of evolution. Topics of interest include, but are not be limited to: Mechanistic simulations predicting distributions of mutational effects on cellular growth or survival; mechanisms for establishing, maintaining, and modifying cellular pathways, gene-regulatory sub-networks and genetic subsystems; mechanisms for evolving novel cell types; methods that help study the above. We will discuss how to integrate recent advances in genome biology, computational molecular systems biology, cell biology, and evolutionary biology.

7. Polyploidy and hybridization

Z. Jeffrey Chen, Pamela S. Soltis

Invited speakers: Douglas E. Soltis, Keith Adams

Polyploidy and hybridization play a central role in evolution and biology. Crosses between different species can also result in the formation of polyploidy. While newly formed polyploids often exhibit detrimental qualities, polyploidy has clearly played an important role in evolution as evidenced by the repeated histories of chromosome doubling in most eukaryotic lineages including fungi, protozoa, plants and vertebrates. In plants, polyploidy leads to instantaneous speciation, which is subsequently subject to natural selection and domestication. The basis of speciation is enigmatic. It has been recognized for decades that there are genetic incompatibilities that exist between species that can lead to sterility or lethality, postzygotically. Within a species, this often does not occur. The bases of these incompatibilities may be many but they lie at the heart of speciation mechanisms. The divergence in genetic and epigenetic factors that evolve among different evolutionary lineages to condition incompatibilities will ultimately define how speciation operates. Advances in sequencing technologies and big data have shed light on this critical evolutionary and biological issue of polyploidy and hybrid speciation.

8. Epigenetics and evolution

Alexandros Bousios, Soojin Yi, Brandon Gaut

Invited speakers: Isabel Mendizabal, Damon Lisch

The quote from Dhobzhansky (“Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution”) is overused. But there may be no current area of biology to which this quote is more pertinent than epigenetics. In many respects, the study of epigenetics has been a sterling success. Geneticists and molecular biologists have unraveled some of the intricacies of epigenetic pathways and the interplay of epigenetics with development. And yet, without the tools and context of evolutionary biology, it is difficult to put these findings into a proper context. Evolutionary comparisons provide a filter to help determine what phenomena are conserved, general, and important over time. In this symposium, we seek to integrate epigenetic information into an evolutionary framework, including the effects of epigenetics on development, phenotype, and genome evolution.

9. Molecular innovation

Li Zhao, Victor Luria

Invited speakers: David Begun, Alan Saghatelian

Changes in molecular components of living systems underlie phenotypic adaptation and evolutionary innovation. Over evolutionary time, genomes accumulate different types of changes gradually, including changes in existing protein-coding sequences and in gene copy numbers, such as gene duplication, lateral transfer, and retroposition. Strikingly, in recent years it has become apparent that some novel protein-coding genes do not resemble any other existing gene but instead originated from ancestrally non-coding sequences, and are thus called de novo genes. In addition, recent studies in smORFs (small open reading frames) and small peptides suggested that less conserved novel proteins might have important functions in development and evolution. The generation of novel genes takes advantage of the vastness of intergenic sequences, which are a large and increasingly appreciated reservoir of novelty. Novel genes are often expressed in the germline and in neurons, and are showing evidence of rapid evolution. The symposium will focus on several questions aimed at understanding (1) how genomic variation underlies the evolution of novel protein-coding genes in multiple species, (2) how proteins and protein structures evolve to gain new functions and new interactions, (3) what cellular and organismal functions novel genes may have, and (4) how can they drive species-specific adaptations.

10. Convergent evolution

Nathan Clark, Tim Sackton

Invited speakers: Jay Storz, Matthew Hahn, Sarah Kocher

Convergent evolution, wherein species independently evolve substantially similar phenotypes in response to similar selective pressures, is a potentially powerful criterion to identify genotypes underlying adaptive evolution. The on-going boom in comparative genomics has renewed interest in the molecular and genetic basis of convergent phenotypes. Recent progress in the field has demonstrated the extent of convergence in a wide variety of contexts, from microbes to vertebrates, and resulting from conditions including environmental shifts, sensory systems, and biochemical challenges. In addition, whole-population sequencing and in vitro evolution has provided evidence of the dependence of convergence on the nature of the selective pressure. At a higher level, the study of convergence is outlining the constraints on adaptive evolution and deepening our understanding of natural selection. In light of the increasing amount of genomic data available, the field will benefit from a discussion of the challenges in robustly identifying and testing apparent cases of convergence, with one major challenge being distinguishing adaptive convergence at the sequence level from chance events. This symposium will present a balanced program of historical evolution, in vitro evolution, methodology and theory in convergent evolution. Talks will span the full spectrum of potential convergence ranging across molecules, networks, and phenotypes.

11. Mutational mechanisms

Arbel Harpak, Ziyue Gao, Kelley Harris

Invited speakers: Shamil Sunyaev, Serena Nik-Zainal

Mutations in germline and somatic DNA cause cancer as well as a variety of debilitating genetic diseases, but also enable adaptation by acting as sources of genotypic novelty. Recent advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing technology have made it possible, in some cases, to tease apart the molecular and biochemical processes that cause these mutations. Some mutations are caused by physical or chemical damage, while others represent un-repaired replication errors, and such processes can create different patterns of genetic variation across cells, tissues, individuals, populations, and species. This symposium will showcase cutting-edge studies that are contributing to our understanding of mutational mechanisms, including mutation accumulation experiments, computational extraction of mutational signatures, quantification of the temporal and spatial distribution of mutations, and direct experimental measurements of DNA damage, repair and replication.

12. Population genomics of ancient DNA

Benjamin Peter, Joshua Schraiber

Invited speakers: Montgomery Slatkin, Maanasa Raghavan

DNA extracted from fossils has tremendous promise to substantially alter how evolutionary analyses are performed. Yet, while great progress has been made in the technical aspects of purifying and extracting DNA, population genetic interpretation is mainly based on generic analysis procedures such as PCA, or utilizes simple summary statistics, such as the D-statistic and F-statistics. As more ancient data is collected, we will need to move beyond these analyses to leverage all of the power gained by sequencing ancient individuals. Incorporation of explicit population genetic methods, including demographic modeling and and a basis in terms of well-understood processes such as the coalescent will increase the power and reliability of the inferences we make from ancient DNA. The goal of this symposium is to provide a platform for theorists to present novel population genetic models and approaches that respect the unique technological and evolutionary state of ancient DNA, innovative methods that integrate environmental and ecological covariates into studies of ancient DNA, as well as applied studies highlighting questions and models that require further theoretical development.

13. Evolution of complex traits

Camilla Whittington, Michael Thompson

Invited speakers: Gunter WagnerNicola Illing


Innovations such as eyes, wings, and viviparity are striking, adaptive novelties that have shaped the evolutionary trajectories of animals. The genetic bases of these traits are complex, and their origin is a fundamental unanswered question in evolutionary biology. These complex traits determine basic biological differences among animals, so understanding how they evolve is essential for understanding biological diversification. However, such traits have been poorly studied until recently, because they are controlled by interacting and coevolving networks of thousands of genes that are difficult to study using traditional genetic methods. We now have sophisticated genomic, epigenetic, and functional genetic tools that we can apply to the study the evolution of complex traits, an issue that this symposium will address.

14. Systems approaches to behavior

Julia Saltz, Joyce Kao

Invited speakers: Lauren O’Connell, Hans Hofmann

Understanding the diversity of animal behaviors and how this diversity evolves is an intricate challenge because behavior uniquely combines inputs across biological scales—from genes, transcripts, and proteins interacting at tissue, organ, and whole organismal levels to environmental factors such as other individuals via social interactions. The goal of our symposium is to bring together researchers working at the interface of multiple levels of behavioral and molecular analysis to highlight how systems-level approaches can lead to new insights about behavioral evolution. Our symposium will be timely because high-dimensional “–omics” data, representing functional information at multiple biological scales, is rapidly becoming available; but the evolutionary relevance of such information, particularly for highly-plastic phenotypes like behavior, remains unclear. Our symposium will contribute to building an integrated conceptual framework for thinking about the causes of variation in behavior at a systems level and how such systems can evolve. Our invited speakers will provide “worked examples” illustrating how different molecular levels, neurobiology, and ecology can be integrated to understand why behavior varies within individuals, among individuals, and among species.

15. Pathogen genomics

Daniel Jeffares, Tim Anderson, Francois Balloux

Invited speakers: Annette MacLoed, Pleuni Pennings

Recent progress in population genomics allows us to describe evolutionary and demographic processes in unprecedented detail. However, the field remains in flux and different pathogens present unique challenges due to the bewildering variation in life histories, unusual modes of inheritance, and genomic idiosyncrasies, such as the presence of extensive hypervariable genomic regions. Pathogens also offer insight into some particularly interesting fundamental evolutionary questions on selection and genetics drift, thanks to their vast range of population sizes, differences in ploidy, varying rates of genetic recombination, and complex interactions with the host immune system. One additional attraction of pathogen genomics stems from pathogens tending to have short generation times and being often subjected to extreme natural or artificial selection, so that evolutionary processes happen in real time and can be documented with samples from within a single infection or the course of epidemics. This symposium will present an update on recent cutting-edge research on pathogen genomics, with a selection of talks on highly diverse biological systems including viruses, bacteria, fungi and macroparasites, with a focus on unusual genetic inheritance models, demographic histories and natural selection processes.

16. Evolution of gene regulation

Dennis Kostka, Tony Capra

Invited speakers: James Noonan, Saurabh Sinha

Gene regulatory loci play critical roles in development, differentiation, and tissue identity. Non-coding regulatory mutations are essential in distinguishing closely related species and populations, and non-coding regions harbor a majority of genetic variants associated with human complex disease. However, we lack a comprehensive understanding of how gene regulatory programs are encoded in our genomes, how these patterns evolve, and the ways specific mutations perturb their functions. Comparing gene regulatory function across species and populations has provided important insights into gene regulatory mechanisms and evolution. Several recent methodological advances, such as genome-wide assays for active regulatory regions and massively parallel reporter assays now enable the functional study of these questions on the whole-genome scale. In this symposium we will focus on open questions related to the evolution of the function and architecture of gene regulatory regions. We welcome experimental and computational work that investigates these topics. Overall, this theme will be of broad interest to researchers studying genome evolution, drivers of speciation, gene regulation, and disease.

17. Evolutionary genomics of domestication

Jae Young Choi, Zoé Joly-Lopez         

Invited speakers: Adam Boyko, Brandon Gaut

The advent of next generation sequencing has greatly advanced the field of population genetics, especially for studies in the domestication field. As Darwin himself studied domesticated and wild species to theorize evolution by natural selection, domesticated organisms are of great interest to population geneticists due to their a priori knowledge of selection and/or demographic changes during their domestication. Further, as artificial selection and domestication have almost always been intertwined with anthropogenic pressures and climate conditions, the elucidation of the domestication processes gives an indirect perspective of our evolutionary history as well. Currently, hundreds, even thousands of individuals, cultivars, or populations are either undergoing genome sequencing or have been sequenced for many different domesticated organisms. Thus, domesticated species represent a powerful model organism to study how selection and demography would affect organisms. In this symposium, our aim is to bring the cutting edge research in domestication genomics together with cases from both plant and animal kingdoms. We aim to present speakers with various “–omics” data to address the evolutionary process of domestication, including, but not limited to, the driving forces and the potential costs of domestication.

18. Genomic mechanisms of speciation

Jeffrey Good, Elen Oneal

Invited speakers: Jason Wolf, Mary Gehring

The evolution of gene expression plays an important role in development, but the importance of regulatory divergence to speciation remains unclear. Hybrid inviability, a common outcome of interspecific hybridization, is often a consequence of regulatory incompatibilities. Emerging evidence suggests that genomic conflict may play an important role in the evolution of certain gene regulatory networks that are disrupted in hybrid offspring. In particular, genomic imprinting, an epigenetic phenomenon whereby alleles are differentially expressed depending upon their parent of origin, is thought to have evolved in response to parent-offspring conflict over maternal resources. Thus far imprinting has been detected in the placental tissues and developing offspring of viviparous mammals and the seed endosperm of angiosperms, where maintaining correct dosages between maternally and paternally expressed alleles is critical to normal development. However, little is known about the evolutionary dynamics of genomic imprinting between closely related species. While it is increasingly clear that conflict, mediated by imprinting, has played an underappreciated role in driving speciation in mammals and flowering plants, understanding the evolutionary dynamics requires careful isolation and characterization of the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms involved. This symposium will feature contributions from molecular geneticists, developmental biologists, and evolutionary geneticists to this intriguing problem.

19. Calibrating the history of life

Emma Teeling, Jesus Lozano-Fernandez, Mary O’Connell, Davide Pisani

Invited speakers: Tracy Heath, Fabia Ursula Battistuzzi

Establishing an accurate history of life is key to understanding evolutionary processes. The last decade saw an increasing interest in phylogenetic and divergence time estimation, driven by the availability of genomic datasets (phylogenomics). However, controversies underpinned by different opinions on phylogenetic and divergence time estimation still dominate the literature. A classic example is represented by the origin of animals where different phylogenetic and dating approaches recovered irreconcilable trees and divergence times. The fundamental problem with phylogenomics is the lack of agreed protocols. It is unclear whether phylogenies and divergence times should be co-estimated, and how to integrate fossil and genomic information. Shall we integrate fossils directly as tips in combined datasets, use them only to calibrate rates of genomic change, or eschew their use entirely? We will bring together method developers, molecular evolutionary biologists and palaeobiologists with a view to solve hard evolutionary problems – e.g. the origin of animals or of land plants, and the mammal radiation. The discussion from this symposium will help setting the foundations for the development of the next generation of integrated phylogenomic methods.

20. Symbiosis and interactions

Becky Chong, Chih-Horng Kuo

Invited speakers: Daniel Sloan, Teresa Pawlowska

Symbiotic interactions between independent organisms play a critical role in providing new ecological niches and promoting biological diversification. Over evolutionary time, hosts and symbionts often enter a permanent co-evolutionary relationship, where proper maintenance and regulation of symbiosis is required for both lineages to survive. Although beneficial, symbiotic partners are also faced with challenges. Symbionts experience rapid evolution due to high levels of genetic drift and potential selection for selfish traits and hosts must evolve to compensate for these factors in order to maintain functional symbiosis. Thus symbioses may be more similar to a coevolutionary arms race rather than a static optimum. Our understanding of coevolutionary interactions largely focuses on organelles (i.e. mitochondria and plastid) and intracellular endosymbionts present within host cells. Examining the role of genetic variation and functional constraints on the evolution of interacting genomes will shed light on how obligate interactions between co-evolving genomes can promote reproductive isolation, thus promoting biological diversification. This symposium highlights work examining coevolutionary interactions involving organelles and endosymbionts and how these interactions may impact the evolutionary trajectory of these lineages. This symposium provides a central opportunity for integrating the advancements in both endosymbiont and organelle evolution as well as symbiosis.

21. Host-parasite coevolution

Daniel Bolnick, Jesse Weber, Natalie Steinel

Invited speakers: Peter Fields, Andrea Graham

The complex dynamics of host-parasite coevolution have infrequently been described as changes in gene, protein, or cell function. But as more researchers delve into diverse host and parasite systems, armed with technological advances and focused on molecular evolution, it is an opportune time to discuss novel findings and compare definitions and questions. This symposium will foster dialogue among ecologists, geneticists, molecular biologists, and immunologists, all united by an interest in the mechanisms that underlie natural host and parasite evolution. Although presentations will cover a wide range of taxa and approaches, speakers will also address unifying concepts, including: Which questions and approaches are likely to scale across many systems, and which are relevant to only subset of taxa? How can molecular data be used to revamp models of host-parasite interactions (or to design new ones), and what previous theoretical predictions demand mechanistic attention? What are the big differences between studying two-species versus multi-species interactions? How is the molecular or cellular biology of immunity different in wild populations (as opposed to lab settings), and how can we best study immunology in the wild? And finally, what advances in other fields of biology should be incorporated into host-parasite studies, and vice versa?

22. Computation and reproducibility in molecular evolution

Anton Nekrutenko, Sergei Kosakovsky Pond

Invited speakers: Dan Stanzione, Simon Frost

Evolutionary biology has always been at the forefront of quantitative life sciences. However, the recent explosive growth in data generation has made all domains of life sciences data-driven. In this new environment evolutionary biology started to lag behind genomics in terms of computational practices including software engineering, reproducibility, and openness. The goal of this symposium is to engage the SMBE community to actively participate in the latest computational and data analysis practices. Austin, the home of Texas Advanced Computing Center, is the ideal place to start this effort.

23. Integrating ancient and modern DNA

Simon Aeschbacher, Laurent Excoffier, Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas

Invited speakers: Beth Shapiro, Stephan Schiffels, David Reich

The study of contemporary whole genomes has greatly improved our understanding of the evolution of populations, but the availability of ancient genomic data should give us a much more detailed comprehension of the evolutionary process. However, the integration of ancient and modern DNA into a coherent inferential framework is challenging notably due to heterogeneous sampling times and locations, differences in coverage, and post-mortem DNA damages. We also lack appropriate theoretical models linking these two types of samples, as one for instance often ignores the diffusion of genes in both space and time and assumes that old and modern samples belong to the same population. The proper integration of old and contemporary samples is essential to e.g. better distinguish genetic drift from selection, follow specific adaptive processes over time, uncover ancestral relationships among populations, distinguish between alternate modes of selection, follow changes in gene flow over time, or probe past population movements. In this symposium, we aim at bringing together empiricists and theoreticians presenting either novel methodological advances or new genomic datasets including a mixture of ancient and modern samples or experimental/natural time series to tackle fundamental problems in evolution.

24. Mutational load

The meeting would like to acknowledge the support of Thermo Fisher Scientific. 
Thermo Fisher Scientific

Stephan Peischl, Isabel Alves

Invited speakers: Kirk Lohmueller, Joshua Akey

Mutations are a double-edged sword: they are the source of biological innovation that fuels evolution, but they can also be harmful to individuals. Due to a continuous influx of new mutations, most individuals harbor deleterious mutations in their genome making them incur a mutation load. While a high mutation load is expected in small populations, empirical studies show that deleterious mutations are not necessarily restricted to low frequencies in large recombining populations. In humans, recent genome sequencing studies have uncovered a surprisingly high number of deleterious mutations, including loss-of-function mutations, and in dogs, an increased mutational burden is associated with domestication. The exact processes responsible for the creation and preservation of a mutation load in demographically successful organisms with large population sizes are still unresolved, and remain a hotly debated subject in human population genetics. At the somatic level, high mutation load is associated with a variety of tumor types. However, how these mutations accumulate and influence cancer development remains poorly understood. In this symposium, we aim to bring together theoreticians and empiricists addressing questions related to the non-equilibrium dynamics of the creation and purging of mutation load, methods to infer mutation load from sequence data, the association of mutation load and disease risk, and the evolution of somatic mutation load and its association with individual health.

25. Infection and immune systems

Lluis Quintana-Murci, Luis B. Barreiro

Invited speakers: Jenny Tung, Iain Mathieson

Population genetic studies using contemporary and ancient DNA samples are providing key insights into how natural selection, introgression from archaic hominids, and demographic events have shaped the evolution of host defense genes. The combination of these data with functional genomic assays is finally starting to delineate the set of immunological traits and parameters that have been advantageous during recent human evolution. Studies of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) on immune cells have identified hundreds of genetic variants that contribute to differences between individuals and populations in immune responses to infectious agents, uncovering functional variation that has been the substrate of recent positive selection. Furthermore, non-genetic factors, such as social hierarchies, are increasingly recognized as having a non-negligible impact of molecular phenotypes such as gene expression, and studies in primate models suggest that social behavior affects the host’s ability to respond to infectious challenges. This symposium will focus on empirical and theoretical advances in the study of the different factors—genetic, epigenetic, social and environmental—driving the evolution of immune systems. Understanding and quantifying the relative impact of such factors on the phenotypic variability of immune responses will be the main focus of this session.

26. Associate Editors Symposium

Howard Ochman, Nancy Moran, Claus Wilke

Invited speakers: N/A

The journals MBE and GBE combined have over 100 Associate Editors (AEs). These AEs are among the most senior researchers in the areas of interest to SMBE, and in many ways they represent the backbone of the society. Yet only a small number of the AEs tend to present at any SMBE meeting. This symposium will provide an opportunity for the AEs to showcase what they are currently working on.

27. Open Symposium

Howard Ochman, Nancy Moran, Claus Wilke

Invited speakers: N/A

This symposium will accept submissions on any topic.