We are searching for a motivated PhD candidate to execute the research project 'Insane in the brain: How a virus manipulates a caterpillar's brain function and behaviour to enhance transmission', funded by NWO. The project focuses on parasitic manipulation of host behaviour, which is a common strategy exploited by parasites to increase transmission. Although exquisite examples of such behavioural alterations are known, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Baculoviruses, which are viruses specifically infecting insects, provide a unique system to study these mechanisms. Baculoviruses alter the behavior of caterpillars, causing increased locomotion (hyperactivity) and migration to the top of plants (tree-top disease), where the caterpillars liquefy and virus particles are released. Earlier studies have demonstrated that the baculovirus protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) is involved in inducing hyperactivity. The project aims to identify the pathway(s) activated by the baculovirus ptp gene that eventually lead(s) to hyperactive host behaviour. Since locomotion is primarily controlled by the central nervous system, we will focus on the brain of the infected caterpillars. The PhD candidate will combine a proteomic and transcriptomic approach with detailed morphological studies on viral invasion of the host brain and on infection of specific neurons. Identified genes, proteins, pathways and neural networks will be further studied in-depth for their role in host behavioural manipulation. The proposed research will reveal the mechanism of an appealing case of parasitic manipulation of host behavior and contribute to our understanding of insect behavior in general.
Moreover, we look for someone with excellent interpersonal and communication skills and is able to work in a multidisciplinary team in a collaborative spirit.
For more information about this position, please contact dr. Vera Ros, assistant professor, by e-mail
or telephone +31(0)317-484461.
Please submit your motivation letter and CV before February 19, 2018. All applications are submitted via the Wageningen University & Research website. For this position you can only apply on line:
The Laboratory of Virology is part of the Plant Sciences Group of Wageningen University and is situated at the Wageningen Campus. Currently, about 25 researchers, including technicians, PhD students and Postdocs are employed at the Laboratory of Virology and contribute to a lively, research-driven work environment. Research at the Laboratory of Virology is focussed at various animal-, insect- and plant viruses. Plant viruses form a major threat for crops and ornamentals and are often transmitted by insect vectors. Arboviruses are transmitted by insects as well and cause disease in humans and animals. Insect-infecting viruses on the other hand are pathogenic to insects and are used to control pest insects. Insect viruses are also in use biotechnologically to produce recombinant proteins for instance for vaccines. Our research concentrates on virus-host and virus-vector interactions, with special attention for defence mechanisms, viral evasion strategies and host manipulation mechanisms.
Wageningen University & Research
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