Pascal Gagneux, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Pathology; Associate Director, UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA), University of California, San Diego

Pascal Gagneux is Professor of Pathology and Anthropogeny at UC San Diego. He is interested in the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for generating and maintaining primate molecular diversity. His team is exploring the roles of molecular diversity in protecting populations from pathogens as well as potential consequences for reproductive compatibility. The Gagneux laboratory studies cell-surface molecules of sperm cells in closely related primates species. His focus is on glycans, the oligosaccharides attached to glycolipids and glycoproteins of the cell surface. The numerous parallels between the surface molecules of successful pathogens and those found on the surface of mammalian sperm, invite the analogy between internal fertilization and “extremely successful infection.”  Dr. Gagneux’s interest is in how differences in sperm surface molecules reflect sexual selection (via sperm competition and cryptic female choice) and whether such differences might contribute to reproductive incompatibility and speciation due to female immune rejection of sperm decorated with incompatible glycoconjugates. The operating assumption is that glycan evolution is shaped by constraints from endogenous biochemistry and exogenous, pathogen-mediated natural selection, but could also have consequences for sexual selection. Dr. Gagneux has studied the behavioral ecology of wild chimpanzees in the Taï Forest, Ivory Coast, population genetics of West African chimpanzees, and differences in sialic acid biology between humans and great apes with special consideration of their differing pathogen regimes. His great concern is that the current surge in interest for comparative genomics is not being translated into direct support for the conservation of primates in their endangered natural habitats.

Funded Research

These projects were made possible from Cure Alzheimer's Fund support.