The microbiome of the tsetse

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Biology

Abstract

Background: The tsetse fly is an important vector of tropical disease as it is the host for the parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, that causes African sleeping sickness. The completion of the genome sequence of the tsetse earlier this year has moved studies into the post-genomic era with new opportunities to decrease the burden of sleeping sickness. One significantly underexplored area is the role of the tsetse microbiome, which contains 3 recognised symbiotic bacteria, Wigglesworthia glossinidia, Sodalis glossunidius and Wolbachia sp., which are thought to play varying roles in nutrient provisioning, parasite transmission and causing reproductive abnormalities.
Objectives: In this project the student will use a combination of computational and microbiological techniques to define the function of the tsetse microbiome. Building on our extensive experience and significant unpublished data in whole-genome metabolic modelling in this area, the student will extend this work to define the metabolic function of Wigglesworthia and Sodalis, including recent breakthroughs in the successful laboratory culturing of Sodalis and enhanced growth using metabolic additions predicted by the in silico model.

Novelty: The combination of computational and experimental methods being used in this project is highly innovative and brings together the microbiological and metabolic expertise of the primary supervisor, Dr. Thomas, with the modelling and mathematical/computational expertise of the co-supervisor Dr. Wood.
Timeliness: The project benefits from the completion of the tsetse genome sequence in 2014. Through on ongoing project with Dr. Alistair Darby (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine) we will have access to extensive transcriptomic, metabolomic and proteomic data from Sodalis that will be incorporated in York into SodalisBASE, a new bespoke database being developed in the TF in late 2014. Other new synthetic biology approaches being used in the Thomas lab would also allow the heterologous expression of key symbiont proteins to test key metabolic predictions.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011151/1 30/09/2015 29/09/2023
1643035 Studentship BB/M011151/1 30/09/2015 29/09/2019 Rebecca Hall
 
Description The development of a bespoke growth medium for the insect gut microbe Sodalis glossinidius. Development of a new tool to investigate the evolution of symbiosis.
Exploitation Route We have been contacted by groups in the US who are now using the growth medium in order to grow and test Sodalis. The tool could be extended further to incorporate e.g. horizontal gene transfer.
Sectors Environment,Healthcare,Other

 
Description Microbiology Society Travel Grant
Amount £233 (GBP)
Funding ID GA000124 
Organisation Microbiology Society 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 04/2018
 
Description Microbiology Society Travel Grant
Amount £292 (GBP)
Funding ID GA000957 
Organisation Microbiology Society 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 10/2018
 
Description Microbiology Society Travel Grant
Amount £205 (GBP)
Funding ID SCG17/250 
Organisation Microbiology Society 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 04/2017
 
Description PhD Spotlight exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I designed and created an exhibition on my PhD work that was presented throughout the day during a public engagement event called York Talks. I was selected as a finalist and won the Science category.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.york.ac.uk/research/graduate-school/updates/2017/phd-spotlight-2018/
 
Description School visit and public engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 30 local school pupils attended Marvellous Microbes for a hands on workshop themed around various topics in microbiology. Marvellous Microbes also ran for two evenings for the general public during York Festival of Ideas and for the day at YorNight.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018