I am interested in how environmental selection pressures shape life history traits; in particular the reproductive strategies of the rodent malaria parasite model system.
Recent data from Plasmodium chabaudi infections indicate that within multiple - genotype malaria infections, single clones may plastically respond to competition by employing a strategy of reproductive restraint; decreasing their conversion rate to sexual stages. This observation occurs alongside an increase in their relative production of males (increased sex ratio). The theory of reproductive restraint argues that heavy investment in reproduction will compromise in-host survival. As such, it is predicted to maximise their ability to exploit resources within in the host [Plasticity in reproductive decisions].
I am interested in determining if there is a direct ‘recognition cue' that is used by a single clone to detect the presence of an unrelated genotype. If so, do individual clones respond to perceived competition by employing reproductive restraint and increasing their sex ratio (proportion of males), to ensure fertilisation success; essentially via ‘kin discrimination'? If such a cue exists, and the effect is observed across other parasite genotypes, then I would like to localize the cue and determine if it is density dependant
Furthermore, I am planning to perform a meta - analysis to demonstrate the effect of various environmental ‘stressors' (such as competition, resource limitation, drug therapy and host derived immune factors) on the range of conversion rates observed from previous studies on malaria parasites.
I am also interested in the biology and mating behaviour of Plasmodium gametes. One phenomenon commonly observed in vitro, during male gametogenesis (exflagellation) is that flagellated males extruding from the residual gametocyte interact with surrounding red blood cells and other parasitized cells, forming temporary, but strong interactions, termed exflagellation centers. Determining the subsequent implications of these interactions for mating success is crucial in enabling future experiments within this field to be undertaken within a meaningful ecological context.
2009 - 2010 The University of Glasgow, MRes Molecular Parasitology (Distinction)
Tel: 0131 650 7706
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