Hande Acar

I am interested in better understanding horizontal gene transfer and its role in the dynamic nature of bacterial genomes. I am currently a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Liverpool working with Jon Bollback.

I completed my PhD work on selective barriers to horizontal gene at IST Austria in 2016.

During my junior year at the Middle East Technical University (METU), in Ankara, Turkey, I joined to Inci Togan's group to work under the national project TURKHAYGEN-I to investigate the origins of domestication of livestock animals at Fertile Crescent by estimating the genetic diversity and admixture of Turkish native sheep breeds. I earned both my B.Sc. and my M.Sc. degrees from METU while working on this project first as a molecular biologist then as a bioinformatician.

In summer 2014 I was accepted to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Advanced Bacterial Genetics course. This very intensive course extended my molecular microbial skills substantially.

My CV can be downloaded as a PDF here:

Research Interests:

My research is on the experimental analysis of the selective barriers to horizontal gene transfer.

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is an important evolutionary source of bacterial innovation. Our understanding of HGT relies primarily on in silico studies. These studies have identified several factors that may act as selective barriers to HGT such as a gene’s function, divergence, or the complexity of the gene or protein’s interactions in the new genomic background. However, these studies provide insight into only those genes that have somehow survived the evolutionary sieve, and not those that have failed to persist. To bridge this gap, I am employing a systematic experimental evolutionary approach which will allow me to elucidate the selective forces that determine the fate of newly transferred genes.



December, 2016

IST Austria, Austria

Advisor: Jonathan P. Bollback

Thesis title: Experimental Determination of the Selective Barriers to Horizontal Gene Transfer

MSc, Bioinformatics

October, 2010

Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

Advisor: Inci Togan

Thesis title: Bioinformatical Analyses in Microsatellite-Based Genetic Diversity of Turkish Sheep Breeds

B.Sc., Biological Sciences
June, 2008
Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
Advisor: Inci Togan


Hall B.G., Acar H., Nandipati A., and Barlow M. (2014) Growth Rates Made Easy. Molecular Biology and Evolution 31 (1): 232-238.

Lagator M, Acar H., Bollback J.P., and Guet C.C. (2017) Regulatory network structure determines patterns of intermolecular epistasis. eLife 2017;6:e28921

Manuscripts in Preparation:

Acar H., and Bollback J.P. Selective Barriers to Horizontal Gene Transfer: Connectivity or Other Factors?


Acar* H., Poecher* K., and Bollback J.P. Effect of Different Environments on Horizontal Gene Transfer. (* Equal contributions)