Understanding the factors that determine the ability of a fungal pathogen to infect selected hosts, or how fungi can evolve pathogenicity to different hosts is key to predict when and where fungal diseases will emerge in the future. Recent studies suggests that a combination of pathogen genetic diversity and pathogen phenotypic plasticity governs the evolutionary ecology of new pathogen host colonizations. However, in general we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms and evolutionary factors that consistently facilitate pathogen host-shifts.
The “Applied Evolutionary Ecology” group at Section for Organismal Biology at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences explores fungus-insect interactions using microbiological, molecular biology, bioinformatics and laboratory experiments with live organisms (insects and fungi). For example, we use an 'experimental evolution' approach to create artificial host-shifts using insect-pathogenic Metarhizium fungi. This allows us to trace evolutionary change in real-time in the laboratory during serial passages in novel hosts. We use these artificially created pathogen host-shifts to study pathogen plasticity and phenotypic and/or genomic changes, including changes in gene expression, mutations and epigenetic modifications.
If you are at University of Copenhagen and looking for a BSc or MSc project in biology, biotechnology, natural resources, molecular biomedicine, animal science or similar we invite you to join our research on the evolutionary ecology of host-pathogen interactions. We have set projects and can design projects to fit your specific interest and skills, and be primarily experimental or focus on the use of bioinformatic tools. The important thing is that you are enthusiastic about creating new knowledge, dedicated, and follow planned project activities.
If this is of interest to you then contact Associate Professor Henrik H. De Fine Licht for more information.