Understanding cellular mechanisms of intracellular pathogen infection using a cross-disciplinary approach: Microsporidia are important intracellular pathogens of animals, affecting human health and threatening global food security. They invade cells by expelling a long fine hollow (“polar”) tube, through which the parasite injects its cellular contents into the host cell. Despite their importance, a fundamental question about this unique cell invasion mechanism remains: does the polar tube penetrate the target cell membrane or induce the endocytosis of the parasite cell as it leaves the tube? In this project you will collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of scientists based across the LSI, Biosciences (Williams, Daum, Costello), Physics (Richards) and Mathematics (Wan) to investigate the process of microsporidian cell invasion across scales. The project will involve imaging the first steps of infection combining high speed and live-cell fluorescent light microscopy (FLM) with high-resolution electron cryo-tomography (ETC) interrogating the mechanism of infection; assaying the infection efficiency of wild type mammalian cell culture versus knockdown mutants incapable of endocytosis and the use of automatic image analysis to identify infection modes, and start to mathematically model speed of infection.
We are a part of an EU funded project called insect doctors that aims to train promising young scientists to develop the knowledge, technical skills and tools to diagnose and manage disease problems in commercial insect production systems.