Investigating Pathogen Induced Behavioral Changes in Drosophila melanogaster

Summer 2017

Quinn Spencer : Molecular & Cell Biology

Donor: Pergo Fund
Mentor: Michael Eisen

Entomopthera muscae is a fungus that infects flies that can induce behavioral changes and subsequently cause morbidity Drosophila melanogaster. However, the mechanism behind this drastic modification is still largely unknown. My research aims to find a way to modify and flourescently tag a gene in the fungus using CRISPR/Cas9, which may allow us to better understand mechanisms of infection and subsequent behavioral modifications in the host organisms. By doing so, we will be able to track how the fungus can travel through and modify the function of the nervous system in the host organism. This will enable future research probing the mechanistic basis of behavioral changes in the fly host, and may allow for a further understanding of other animal's nervous systems and associated diseases. My research also focuses on how to genetically altera non model and evolutionarily distant species in vivo and subsequently return an active culture to a host, which will allow for further understanding of mechanisms of infection and genes associated in this process, opening avenues for further research in understanding how pathogens may be able to alter their hosts. 

I'd like to once again thank the Pergo fund for my experience this summer. I really enjoyed being able to have the experience of dedicating all my time to research. It has inspired me to go on and start the process of applying to get a PhD in the future. I felt much more confident and comfortable in a lab environment after this summer and was grateful to be able to spend so much time in my lab and with other students who were dedicated to the experience.