James Lake, Ph.D.

A Short Biography:

James A. Lake is a molecular biologist and evolutionary genomicist who has been on the UCLA Faculty since 1976. He became a Full Professor in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology in 1976, and has been a Distinguished Professor of MCD Biology since 1996, and a Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics since 2002. Jim Lake earned his B.S. from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his Ph.D., in physics, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, working on the structure of transfer RNAs. He was a postdoctoral fellow at MIT from 1967-68, and at Harvard Medical School, from 1958-70, working on ribosomal structure and devising new methods for the three dimensional analyses of large structures. As an Assistant Professor of Cell Biology at Rockefeller University (1970-1973), an Associate Professor of Cell Biology at New York University Medical School (1973-1976), and upon coming to UCLA he and his lab continued their studies of ribosome structure, ultimately mapping the 3D locations of ribosomal proteins and rRNAs, and developing the ribosome model widely found in text books. Through rRNA sequencing his lab, in collaboration with others, has been central in developing the New Animal Phylogeny for the evolution of the multicellular animals, which is now well known and widely accepted. His laboratory is currently focused on using genomics to understand the evolution of life. Within the last few years they have changed the tree of life significantly and shown that the tree of life is actually a ring of life, and that the Eukaryotes originated as the result of a genome fusion between an archaebacterium and a eubacterium. Presently they are making considerable progress in rooting the tree/ring of life using the enormous amount of genomic data now available.

Work Titles
UCLA Distinguished Professor, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology Distinguished Professor, Human Genetics
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Academic Experience:
MIT, Biology
Harvard University, Molecular and Structural Biology
Academic Experience:
UCLA, Human Genetics
NYU Medical School, Cell Biology
Rockefeller University, Cell Biology
UCLA, Molecular Biology

Contact Information:

Email Address:



Work Phone Number:

(310) 825-2545

(310) 825-2546

Work Address:

Los Angeles, CA 90095

MBI 242
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Detailed Biography:

Jim Lake’s fundamental evolutionary discoveries, like the New-Animal-Phylogeny for which he received the 2011 Darwin-Wallace Medal, combine a deep understanding of biology with transformative genomic analyses. He is breaking new ground rooting the tree of life, reconstructing the eukaryotic rings of life, and providing genomic evidence for ancient prokaryotic endosymbioses. Research Interest: Evolution, Genomics and Bioinformatics, including the evolution and origin of genomes


Lake, J. A.   Evidence for an early prokaryotic endosymbiosis. , Nature, 2009; 460: 967-971.
Lake, J. A., Skophammer, R. G., Herbold, C. W., and Servin, J. A.   Genome beginnings: Rooting the tree of life. , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Section B, 2009; 364(1527): 2177-2185.
Ragan, M. A.; McInerney, J. O.; and Lake, J. A.   The network of life: genome beginnings and evolution’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 2009; 364(1527): 2169-2289.
Lake, J. A.   Reconstructing Evolutionary Graphs: 3D Parsimony. , Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2008; 25: 1677-1682.
Skophammer, R. G., Servin, J. A., Herbold, C. W., and Lake, J. A.   Evidence for a Gram Positive, Eubacterial Root of the Tree of Life. , Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2007; 24: 1761-1768.
James A. Lake   Disappearing Act, Nature, 2007; 446: 983.
James A. Lake Craig W. Herbold Marica C. Rivera Jacqueline A. Servin Ryan G. Skophammer   Rooting the Tree of Life Using Nonubiquitous Genes, Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2006; 24(1): 130-6.
Simonson, AB Servin, JA Skophammer, RG Herbold, CW Rivera, MC Lake, JA   Decoding the genomic tree of life Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. , 2005; 102 Suppl 1: 6608-13.
Rivera, MC Lake, JA   The ring of life provides evidence for a genome fusion origin of eukaryotes Nature. , 2004; 431(7005): 152-5.
Jain, R Rivera, MC Moore, JE Lake, JA   Horizontal gene transfer accelerates genome innovation and evolution Molecular biology and evolution. , 2003; 20(10): 1598-602.
Simonson, AB Lake, JA   The transorientation hypothesis for codon recognition during protein synthesis Nature. , 2002; 416(6878): 281-5.
Lake, J   Why Pauling didn't solve the structure of DNA Nature. , 2001; 409(6820): 558.
Lake, J.A., Jain, R., and Rivera, M.C.   Mix and Match in the Tree of Life, Science, 1999; 283: 2927-2928.
Jain, R Rivera, MC Lake, JA   Horizontal gene transfer among genomes: the complexity hypothesis Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. , 1999; 96(7): 3801-6.
Rivera, MC Jain, R Moore, JE Lake, JA   Genomic evidence for two functionally distinct gene classes Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. , 1998; 95(11): 6239-44.
Aguinaldo, AM Turbeville, JM Linford, LS Rivera, MC Garey, JR Raff, RA Lake, JA   Evidence for a clade of nematodes, arthropods and other moulting animals Nature. , 1997; 387(6632): 489-93.
Halanych, KM Bacheller, JD Aguinaldo, AM Liva, SM Hillis, DM Lake, JA   Evidence from 18S ribosomal DNA that the lophophorates are protostome animals Science. , 1995; 267(5204): 1641-3.

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