Areas of Expertise:
insect immunity, ants, symbiont transmission, protein purification, microscopy, gene expression analysis
ants, mealybugs, bacteria,
My previous work as a doctoral researcher focussed on the involvement of the Camponotus floridanus immune system in the regulation and tolerance of its bacterial endosymbiont Blochmannia floridanus. I investigated the transcriptomic and proteomic responses of the ants upon immune challenge to provide an overview about ant immune factors. I also analysed differences in immune gene expression between endosymbiont bearing tissues and bacteria-free body parts to understand the role of the immune system in symbiont regulation. The results of the expression analysis revealed low expression levels of genes involved in immune signalling, and in addition the high expression of negative immune regulators in ant ovarian tissue and midguts suggesting a down-modulation of the immune response which may facilitate endosymbiont tolerance and transovarial transmission. Furthermore, the investigation of the localisation of B. floridanus in ant ovaries during oogenesis revealed the infestation of very young oocytes by bacteria which very likely involves exocytosis-endocytosis processes between follicle cells and the oocytes.
It is the variety of molecular interactions at the interface of oogenesis/embryogenesis, immunity and symbiont transmission which has become one of my main interests as a scientist.