Mason Wilkinson recently joined the lab as an assistant researcher (or technician). He hails from Overland Park, Kansas. Mason graduated from KU in December 2017 and worked in Roberto de Guzman's lab on a biophysical characterization of the Burkholderia Type III Secretion System Minor Translocon Protein, BipC. This earned Mason an honorable mention for a poster presented at the recent K-INBRE symposium in Overland Park, KS. Mason will bring his biochemistry skills to our lab to work on molecular aspects of how immune proteins interact directly with pathogens.
Tom Hill (postdoc) recently published a paper characterizing the genome of the Drosophila innubila Nudivirus (DiNV). These viruses are large (155kb), double-stranded, circular DNA viruses that appear to infect several members of the Drosophila genus. Tom found preliminary evidence that a few key genes are evolving adaptively in the virus. You can read the paper in Infection, Genetics and Evolution by clicking here.
We were pleased to welcome Sydney Alexander to the lab in August. She will be here through the end of October as her first rotation. Sydney is from Olathe, Kansas and attended Rockhurst University in Kansas City. Sydney's project focuses on interspecific divergence in immune defense in Drosophila. As an undergraduate, Sydney studied several things including the ability of wine to act as an antibiotic!
Tom Hill's paper entitled, "Baculovirus molecular evolution via gene turnover and recurrent positive selection of key genes" is out in the Journal of Virology. Here's a short blurb:
Most viral evolutionary studies focus on RNA viruses. While these viruses cause many human and animal diseases, it leaves us with a lesser understanding of how DNA viruses adapt to hosts and how the host responds to these pathogens. In this paper, we focus on the evolution of baculovirus, a group of insect-infecting DNA viruses, many of which have been used in biocontrol. We find that most the genome is under purifying selection, with only a few key genes evolving adaptively. Our results provide a glimpse into how DNA viruses differ from RNA viruses in their evolutionary dynamics and identifies genes key to DNA virus adaptation, improving our understanding of how this group of pathogens evolves.
Sarah Mullinax decided to returned to the lab after completing her rotations. At about the same time, she was awarded a Self Graduate Fellowship which provides full support for her for four years. Self Fellows "demonstrate the promise to make significant contributions to their fields of study and society as a whole." We certainly agree that Sarah is highly qualified and we are thrilled to have her.
In January (on inauguration day), Jo Chapman joined the lab as postdoc to work on the evolution of gene duplication using Drosophila immune genes as a model. Jo is from New Zealand, and completed her PhD at Oxford and a postdoc at Linnaeus University in Sweden. As a PhD student, she worked on mating behavior in great tits, then moved to the mallard immune defense for her postdoc. Drosophila is a new venture for her, but birds are basically just warm-blooded flies.