They are a major threat to global food security, says Sebastian Eves-van den Akker of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK.
Eves-van den Akker will speak on "Effector Gene Birth in Plant-Parasitic Nematodes: Furnishing the Immunity and Development-Altering 'Tool Box' " at the Wednesday, Jan. 22th seminar of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His seminar is from 4:10 to 5 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, UC Davis campus. Host: nematologist Shahid Siddique, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
In a recent publication in PLOS Genetics titled "Effector Gene Birth in Plant Parasitic Nematodes: Neofunctionalization of a Housekeeping Glutathione Synthetase Gene," Eves-van den Akker noted that "Plant parasitism has arisen four times independently within the phylum Nematoda, resulting in at least one parasite of every major food crop in the world. Some species within the most economically important order (Tylenchida) secrete proteins termed effectors into their host during infection to re-programme host development and immunity. The precise detail of how nematodes evolve new effectors is not clear."
He and his colleagues reconstructed the evolutionary history of a novel effector gene family. They showed that "during the evolution of plant parasitism in the Tylenchida, the housekeeping glutathione synthetase (GS) gene was extensively replicated. New GS paralogues acquired multiple dorsal gland promoter elements, altered spatial expression to the secretory dorsal gland, altered temporal expression to primarily parasitic stages, and gained a signal peptide for secretion. The gene products are delivered into the host plant cell during infection, giving rise to 'GS-like effectors.'"
"Our results demonstrate the re-purposing of an endogenous housekeeping gene to form a family of effectors with modified functions," Eves-van den Akker wrote. "We anticipate that our discovery will be a blueprint to understand the evolution of other plant-parasitic nematode effectors, and the foundation to uncover a novel enzymatic function."
Eves-van den Akker studied biology at the University of Leeds from 2007 to 2019. During his final year, in the lab of Professor P. E. Urwin, he became interested in plant-pathology, and "the fascinating and potentially useful abilities of plant-parasitic nematodes." From 2010 to 2014, he studied for a doctorate in plant-nematode “effectors,” jointly appointed between the University of Leeds and The James Hutton Institute.
In 2015, he was awarded a three-year Anniversary Future Leaders Fellowship from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. His fellowship was designed to understand the structural and molecular detail of nematode effector function.
That led to a discovery that provided what he calls "the first tangible insight into the regulatory processes underlying plant-nematode parasitism," and that in turn, resulted in his five-year BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship in 2018. With this second fellowship, he established a research group at the University of Cambridge and was elected Fellow of King's College.
Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, is coordinating the winter quarter seminars, all held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. The remaining schedule:
Wednesday, Jan. 29
Elizabeth Crone, Tufts University, Medford, Mass.
Topic: "Why Are Monarch Butterflies Declining in the West?"
Hosts: Neal Williams, professor; Rachel Vannette, assistant professor
Wednesday, Feb. 5
Andrew Young, postdoctoral scholar at California Department of Food and Agriculture, Pest Diagnostic
Topic: Syrphids (title to be announced)
Host: Lynn Kimsey, professor and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Kevin Rice, University of Missouri, Columbia
Topic: "Lasers, Drones, and Growth Promoting Fungus: New Technologies for IPM"
Host: Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor
Wednesday, Feb. 19
Mercedes Burns, University of Maryland,Baltimore County
Topic: (pending) She studies evolutionary ecology of reproductive traits and behaviors, sexual conflict, reproductive polymorphism, arthropod biology
Host: Jason Bond, professor and Schlinger Chair in Insect Systematics
Wednesday, Feb. 26:
Faculty Flash Talks (featuring series of faculty members, including Rachel Vannette, Ian Grettenberger, Shahid Siddique, Geoffrey Attardo, Jason Bond)
Wednesday, March 4
Brendon Boudinot, doctoral candidate, Phil Ward lab, exit seminar
Topic: "Morphology and Evolution of the Insects, and the Ancestors of the Ants"
Host: Phil Ward, professor
That's because bees don't fly until the temperature hits around 55, and the thermometer on that wintry day (Jan. 7) refused to budge over 47.
The facility, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, is located next to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
It slides Davis into the national spotlight as "Pollination Central" and "The Bee Capital of the World." The Davis facility is the newest of five USDA bee research labs in the United States and as the only one in California.
“This is the only USDA bee research team in California—where the action is,” said emcee Paul Pratt, research leader of the Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Lab. USDA maintains honey bee research facilities in Tucson, Ariz.; Beltsville, M.D., Baton Rouge, La., and Stoneville, Miss.
“The opening of the USDA-ARS bee lab marks a new opportunity for USDA and UC Davis entomologists to collaborate and investigate serious problems that affect stakeholders,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “We are very fortunate that the lab was built at UC Davis.”
Plans for the USDA-ARS facility began five years ago at a stakeholders' conference in the Laidlaw facility. Attendees at the November 2015 meeting targeted honey bee health, primarily varroa mites, pesticides and nutrition.
Park-Burris, of Jackie Park-Burris Queens, Palo Cedro--her family has worked with UC Davis researchers for more than 80 years--cut the ribbon with four other stakeholders: almond pollination consultant Robert Curtis of Carmichael, former director and associate director (now retired) of Agricultural Affairs, Almond Board of California; Kevin Adee of Bruce, S.D., president of the American Honey Producers' Association; Brad Pankratz of Can-Am Apiaries, Orland, Calif.; and Darren Cox of Cox Honey Farms, Logan, Utah, a past president of the American Honey Producers' Association.
Pratt introduced newly hired research entomologists, Arathi Seshadri and Julia Fine, who form the Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Unit at Davis. They are dedicated toward developing technology that improves colony survivorship through long-term studies of multiple stress factors, he said. "They will develop and transfer integrated biologically based approaches for the management of invasive species and the improvement of pollinator health.”
The speakers centered their presentations around cooperation, camaraderie, and, yes, the cold! (See new story and images on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Park-Burris said it well:
"The California State Beekeepers' Association is overwhelmed that we have a USDA lab to collaborate with our UC Davis lab. We hope there's a lot of collaboration going on. We really look forward to that. As a stakeholder, my family has been raising queens just north of here (Palo Cedro) for over 80 years. Dr. Laidlaw had worked with my uncle and my father. He's been at my house. And he's been through my bees. Julia (Fine) has even already been up to see the queen farm.” (See more information on Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr., 1907-2003, the father of honey bee genetics, on the UC Davis website.)
“The queen bee breeding industry could definitely use you guys,” Park-Burris continued. “California has all the issues because everybody comes here. …it's very important that we have this lab here and how grateful we are that you have all gone to the work to make this happen."
“We look forward to solving some of our problems—varroa, varroa, varroa--and forage and pesticide interaction,” Park-Burris said, “and all that happens in California during the largest pollinator event in the world. So you're in a good place and we're grateful.”
The bees? They're grateful, too.
Abrieux, an international scholar from France in the Joanna Chiu lab, is one of two recipients of an Innovator Fellow Award from the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH).
“Each year, entrepreneurially minded PhD or postdoctoral students are invited to join venture capital partners onsite to gain first-hand experience on what it takes to have a successful startup, then apply that knowledge to develop and de-risk their own potential technology, product or process at UC Davis,” according to an IIFH news release.
Abrieux, whose project is titled “Improving Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Practices with Biotechnology,” is working with The Production Board (TPB), a San Francisco-based technology incubator and investment holding company that aims to improve the efficiency and economics of global food and agriculture markets.
Recipient Tawny Scanlan, a UC Davis doctoral candidate in animal biology, is researching “Enhancing Production Efficiency and Sustainability in Aquaculture” and working with Food for Thought Worldwide Ventures (FTW), a San Francisco-based early-stage venture fund investing in breakthrough hardware, software and biotech solutions in the worldwide food system.
Abrieux is utilizing his expertise in insect physiology, behavioral analysis and molecular biology to tackle problems related to agriculture and enhance food security. He seeks to develop innovative approaches in biotechnology to improve IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solution and ensure crop production sustainability.
Abrieux received his doctorate in biology from Angers University, western France, where investigated the role of hormones and biogenic amines in the behavioral response to the sex pheromone in the noctuid Agrotis ipsilon. He joined the Chiu lab in the spring of 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow.
In the Chiu lab, he explores the interactions between the clock and endocrine system underlying seasonal adaptation in the pest, the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii. “I am particularly interested in developing integrative approaches to better understand how physiological state and behavior could be modulate at both transcriptional and translational levels and facilitate insect adaptability to changing environments.” (He presented a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on "Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Photoperiodic Time Measurement in Drosophila melanogaster" in February 2018.)
“Understanding insects," Abrieux says, "helps us recognize how their presence influences the greater ecosystem and agriculture." Scientists estimate the worldwide impact of agricultural pests at almost one quarter of annual losses (more than $100 billion market value), amounting to $40 billion per year in the United States alone. Thus, improving IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solutions, he points out, could result in competitive biopesticide alternatives for growers to reduce economic losses without changing crop varieties or relying on more harmful insecticides.
"I am convinced that biotechnologies can have an important and beneficial impact on society,” Abrieux says, “and the likelihood to facilitate progress is considerably increased through collaborative efforts between actors from diverse domains of expertise.”
His supervisor, associate professor Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, commented: “The Production Board Fellowship represents a perfect opportunity for Antoine to advance his understanding of the food security market and current needs, and to develop entrepreneurship ideas that he can take with him to the next stage of his career."
Abrieux, fascinated with insects since his childhood, maintains a photography website, including macro images of insects at https://antoineabrieux.wixsite.com/antoine-abrieux/portfolio.
(Note: UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health contributed to this piece.)
Carey, the lead author of the 480-page book, Biodemography: An Introduction to Concepts and Methods, published today (Jan. 7) by Princeton University Press, also designed the compelling cover.
The book “effortlessly sets the standard as the definitive text for the important, emerging field of biodemography,” said Robert Peterson, professor of entomology at Montana State University, and a past president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America. "The field is interdisciplinary and the authors have done a magnificent job integrating biology, mathematics, and demography."
Said Professor Tim Coulson of Oxford University: "Ecology and evolution are driven by who lives and reproduces and who doesn't. In recent years, the field of biodemography has developed a rich corpus of concepts and methods to analyze and predict patterns of birth and death. This excellent book provides a much-needed overview of ideas and approaches that will aid researchers, from students immersing themselves in the subject for the very first time to seasoned professors wishing to learn modern approaches."
Publishers describe the book as “an authoritative overview of the concepts and applications of biological demography.”
The interdisciplinary field unites the natural science of biology with the social science of human demography, said Carey, a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology who is known as one of the founding fathers of biodemography and a global authority on arthropod demography.
They “cover everything from baseline demographic concepts to biodemographic applications, and present models and equations in discrete rather than continuous form to enhance mathematical accessibility,” Taylor related. “They use a wealth of real-world examples that draw from data sets on both human and nonhuman species and offer an interdisciplinary approach to demography like no other, with topics ranging from kinship theory and family demography to reliability engineering, tort law and demographjic disasters such as the Titanic and the destruction of Napoleon's Grande Armée.”
Carey said the new interdisciplinary field links a number of professions. “It is an essential resource for demographers, epidemiologists, gerontologists, and health professionals as well as ecologists, population biologists, entomologists, and conservation biologists,” he said.
In the foreword, J. W. Vaupel, founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany, calls the book “impressive,” and noted that the authors both enlighten and inspire with their “important and innovative ideas, mode of explanation, and the graphic illustrations,” all of which make the book “sparkle.”
Topics range from kinship theory and family demography to reliability engineering and tort law, and also demographic disasters such as the Titanic and the destruction of Napoleon's Grande Armée. It also includes an analysis of the Donner Party tragedy.
The book, according to the publishers, is pathbreaking in that it:
- provides the first synthesis of demography and biology
- covers baseline demographic models and concepts such as Lexis diagrams, mortality, fecundity, and population theory
- features in-depth discussions of biodemographic applications like harvesting theory and mark-recapture
- draws from data sets on species ranging from fruit flies and plants to elephants and humans
- uses a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to demography, bringing together a diverse range of concepts, models, and applications
- includes informative “biodemographic shorts,” appendixes on data visualization and management, and more than 150 illustrations of models and equations
Carey, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley and studied population biology for a year at Harvard while working on his doctorate, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1980. He served as the principal investigator of a 10-year, $10 million federal grant on “Aging in the Wild,” encompassing 14 scientists at 11 universities.
Highly honored for his research, teaching and public service, Carey is a fellow of four organizations; American Association for the Advancement of Science, Entomological Society of America, California Academy of Science and the Gerontological Society of America.
'Tis the season of giving, and the ninth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, set for Saturday, Feb. 15, needs donors.
Make that "urgently needs donor pledges." The pledge deadline of Jan. 6 looms.
The free, science-based public event drew more than 4,000 visitors in 2019. It's always held the Saturday of Presidents' Weekend. Displays range from ancient dinosaur bones to stick insects; from hawks to honey bees; and from California condor specimens to carnivorous plants.
Visitors of all ages can meet and talk with UC Davis scientists—from undergraduates to staff to emeriti professors—“and see amazing objects and organisms from the world around us,” said volunteer chair Tabatha Yang, who is also the education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Sponsors (two openings available) who donate $3000 will receive “Presenting Sponsor” recognition (donor name or company logo) on the T-shirts, as well as recognition on social media fliers, fliers, banners and other entities.
Other contributors are “Biodiversity Allies” or $1500 donors (four openings available); “Biodiversity Supporters” or $500 donors, and “Biodiversity Friends” or $100 donors. General supporters, who can give what they can any time of the year, are also needed. More information on how to give is on the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum website. All donations are tax-deductible and much appreciated, the organizers said.
Open to the public on Feb. 15 will be:
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Department of Anthropology Museum
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Marine Invertebrate Collection (not linked)
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Nematode Collection
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
- Viticulture Enology Culture Collection
The 13 museums or collections represent nine departments, all within walking distance on campus except the Raptor Center on Old Davis Road and the bee garden on Bee Biology Road. The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will showcase three museums or collections: Bohart Museum of Entomology, Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, and the Nematode Collection.
Founded in 2011, UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day is billed as an annual event for the public to learn about nature, science and the work of UC Davis around the globe. The science-based day focuses on natural history showcasing the university's critically important, research and teaching collections, the committee related. Many students attend Biodiversity Museum Day to gather information on career choices.
All participating museums and collections have active education and outreach programs, but the collections are not always accessible to the public. In the event of rain, alternative locations are planned for the outdoor sites.
For more information on sponsors, contact Charlie Lemcke, assistant director, Foundation and Corporate Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 754-4102.