molecular palaeontology, skeletogenesis
My research interest revolves around origins and evolution of animal skeletons. Recent specific focus is on structure, function, and evolution of skeletal matrix proteins, which play pivotal roles in biomineralization. By revealing the molecular and genetic basis of skeletal formation, which has been a "black box" in the evolutionary studies of skeletons, I would like to better understand what the skeletal fossil record tells us about evolution, how the skeletons originated, and how the skeletal properties are related to environmental factors, such as ocean chemistry and temperature. Being entombed in hard parts, the skeletal matrix proteins also constitute important starting material of fossil proteins. In order to extract useful biological information from fossil proteins, I use immunological techniques to detect them, and apply mass spectrometry to determine their amino acid sequences. I am also interested in evolutionary genomics of animals, especially lophotrochozoans, such as brachiopods and mollusks.
1. M. Iijima, I. Sarashina, T. Takeuchi and K. Endo, “Expression patterns of engrailed and dpp in the gastropod Lymnaea stagnalis”, Dev. Genes Evol., 218 (2008) 237-251.