Local Adaptation to Parasites and the Evolution of Parasite Resistance
Infection outcomes are determined by a complex set of interactions between host immunity and parasite infectivity. These host and parasite traits often have a genetic basis and can coevolve rapidly, leading to large variation in infection outcomes between individuals and across populations.
As a postdoc with Dr. Dan Bolnick, I am exploring the details of host-parasite interactions using the three-spine stickleback and it's tapeworm parasite, Schistocephalus solidus. We have identified fish populations that vary in their parasite resistance, which is largely determined by the ability of fish to produce fibrosis tissue when infected that surrounds and inhibits the tapeworm.
Using field samples and gene expression data from both hosts and tapeworms, I am working to understand if coevolution between hosts and parasites entails genes that interact epistatically across species boundaries to determine infection outcomes.
I have also explored these questions mechanistically by bringing fish into the lab. In collaboration with fellow postdoc, Dr. Lauren Fuess, we gave fish from resistant and susceptible populations different immune challenges and measured their fibrosis response through time. We found that the resistant population is better able to recognize tapeworm antigens, can responds faster, and then can attenuate that response sooner relative to susceptible populations. We are currently working to add gene expression data from immune tissues collected in this study.