Role of microRNAs in host-pathogen interactions
Small non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs; about 22 nucleotides), are increasingly recognized as important regulatory factors exerting strong control over many biological processes including development, cancer, immunity, longevity, and viral infections. In addition, miRNAs are likely to regulate host defence responses to pathogens. Tightly regulated proteins involved in these responses are presumably part of the pathogen detection network like pattern recognition molecules or direct defence proteins like anti-microbial peptides. We are focusing on determining the impact of pathogens on the hosts miRNA profile and investigate the role of differentially expressed miRNAs in host-pathogen interactions. This may lead to designing novel strategies to control insect pests or limit transmission of arboviruses.
Wolbachia is a common endosymbiont in insects mostly known for reproductive manipulations of the host. In addition, Wolbachia bloxks replication of many RNA viruses and some other vector-borne pathogens (Plasmodium) in insects. We are interested in exploring the role of miRNAs in Wolbachia-mosquito-arbovirus interactions. We have shown that Wolbachia causes differential expression of a number of mosquito miRNAs. Currently, we are investigating the role of these miRNAs on Wolbachia maintenance and the effects on the host. For example, aae-miR-2940 miRNA is induced by Wolbachia and in turn induces a host metalloprotease. Inhibition of the miRNA or silencing of the metalloprotease gene leads to significant declines in Wolbachia density (Hussain et al, 2010, PNAS).
1) Exploring the role of cellular miRNAs in Wolbachia-mosquito interaction
2) Investigating the role of miRNAs in mosquito-virus interaction
3) Role of miRNAs and RNA interference in baculovirus-host interaction
4) Differential regulation of insect miRNAs in response to infection
5) miRNA biology in insects
Available student projects