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
They draw the attention of curious kids--some poke them with a stick, stomp on them, or race their bicycles over them. Some peer into the holes, trying to see the insects inside.
When Corrie Moreau was a young girl, she no doubt was one of the kids who peered inside.
She's now a noted evolutionary biologist and entomologist (specialty myrmecology, the study of ants).
Moreau will present a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar, "Piecing Together the Puzzle to Understand the Evolution of the Ants: Macroevolution to Microbiomes" from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 15 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.
Moreau is the Moser Professor of Biosystematics and Biodiversity, Departments of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell, University, Ithaca, N.Y. and the curator of the Cornell University Insect Collection.
"Moreau and colleagues were the first to establish the origin of the ants at 140 million years ago using molecular sequence data (40 million years older than previous estimates), and that the diversification of the ants coincided with the rise of the flowering plants (angiosperms)," according to an entry in Wikipedia. "In addition, Moreau and Charles D. Bell showed that the tropics have been and continue to be important for the evolution of the ants. Moreau and colleagues have demonstrated the importance of gut-associated bacteria in the evolutionary and ecological success of ants through targeted bacterial and microbiome sequencing, including showing that bacterial gut symbionts are tightly linked with the evolution of herbivory in ants."
Her honors are many and widespread. In 2018 she was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Also in 2018, she was featured in National Geographic as a "Woman of Impact." In 2015, she was included in "15 Brilliant Women Bridging the Gender Gap in Science."
A native of New Orleans, Moreau holds degrees (bachelor and master's) from San Francisco State University and a doctorate in biology from Harvard University (2007). At Harvard, she studied with major professors E. O. Wilson and Naomi Pierce. Wilson featured her in his 2013 book, Letter to a Young Scientist.
"There was no bravado in Corrie, no trace of overweening pride, no pretension," Wilson wrote. "The story of Corrie Saux Moreau's ambitious undertaking is one I feel especially important to bring to you. It suggests that courage in science born of self-confidence (without arrogance!), a willingness to take a risk but with resilience, a lack of fear of authority, a set of mind that prepares you to take a new direction if thwarted, are of great value – win or lose."
Moreau will cover a lot of ground in her UC Davis talk. "To fully understand the macro evolutionary factors that have promoted the diversification and persistence of biological diversity, varied tools and disciplines must be integrated," she says in her abstract. "By combining data from several fields, including molecular phylogenetics/phylogenomics, comparative genomics, biogeographic range reconstruction, stable isotyope analyses, and microbial community sequencing to study the evolutionary history of the insects, we are beginning to understand the drivers of speciation and the interconnectedness of life. Comparative phylogenetic analysis reveals the interconnectedness of ants and plants and that ants diversified after the rise of the angiosperms. Comparative genomics has permitted the exploration of the role of symbiosis on genome evolution and behavioral gene evolution demonstrating that Red Queen dynamics are at play in obligate mutualisms..."
"Microbial contributions to ants are not limited to diet enrichment," she says, "and we find evidence for their role in cuticle formation. These multiple lines of evidence are illuminating a more complete picture of ant evolution and providing novel insights into the role that symbiosis plays to promote biological diversity."
UC Davis graduate student Marshall McMunn of the Phil Ward lab is the host. Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor (email@example.com), coordinates the weekly seminars. See seminar schedule.
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.
So wrote scientists Karen Menuz and Pratyajit Mohapatra in research titled "Molecular Profiling of the Drosophila Antenna Reveals Conserved Genes Underlying Olfaction in Insects," published last fall in the journal G-3 (Genes, Genomics, Genetics). "Currently, little is known about the molecules supporting odor signaling beyond the odor receptors themselves."
The research drew widespread interest. Now Menuz, an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut, will head to the University of California, Davis, next week to present a seminar to the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Menuz will speak on "Molecular Basis of Insect Olfaction" at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8 in 122 Briggs Hall. Host is chemical ecologist Walter Leal, distinguished professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the entomology department.
Her abstract: "Development of new insect control measures will require the discovery of novel molecular targets that can alter their olfactory capabilities. The past two decades have witnessed an explosion of research on the two insect odor receptor families, but nearly all odor receptors are poorly conserved. Therefore, my research focuses on molecules that are likely to play critical roles in olfaction in distantly related insect species. Recently, we have found that Amt/Rh ammonia transporters are essential for the sensing of ammonia, an odor released by humans and attractive to insect vectors of disease and other insects. These transporters are highly conserved and are expressed in the antennal transcriptomes of all insect species examined. To identify additional genes that may contribute to olfaction in the periphery, we carried out a computational screen in Drosophila to reveal genes whose expression in the antenna is greatly enriched compared to other tissues. Importantly, we found that most orthologs of the olfaction-candidate genes are expressed in the antennae of other species, including mosquitoes, ants, bees, and beetles. These candidates will provide a foundation for future studies investigating conserved mechanisms of odor signaling."
Menuz holds a bachelor's degree in genetics, cellular and developmental biology and a bachelor's degree in biophysical chemistry, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College (1999), Hanover, N.H. She received her doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco, in 2007, working with advisor Roger Nicoll. Her thesis:"In Vivo Regulation of AMPA receptors by Their TARP Auxiliary Subunits."
Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, is coordinating the department's seminars. All seminars begin at 4:10 p.m. on Wednesday in 122 Briggs Hall.
Other seminar speakers scheduled for the month of January include:
Wednesday, Jan. 15
Corrie Moreau, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
Topic: "Piecing Together the Puzzle to Understand the Evolution of the Ants"
Host: Marshall McMunn, graduate student
Wednesday, Jan. 22
Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, University of Cambridge, UK
Topic: Nematology (to be announced)
Host: Shahid Siddique, assistant professor
Wednesday, Jan. 29
Elizabeth Crone, Tufts University, Medford, Mass.
Topic: Plant-insect interactions (to be announced)
Hosts: Neal Williams, professor; Rachel Vannette, assistant professor