Postdoc / guest
Chris Jacobs works as a PhD student in both the Evolutionary Biology group and the Molecular Cell Biology group with Dr. Maurijn van der Zee and prof. Herman Spaink.
Chris Jacobs works as a PhD student in both the Evolutionary Biology group and the Molecular Cell Biology group with Dr. Maurijn van der Zee and prof. Herman Spaink. He obtained his master degree in Ecological and Evolutionary Sciences at Leiden University in 2010. MSc projects took him to Canada, where he worked on speciation in the long-toed salamander, and to Leiden, where he worked on desiccation resistance of the eggs of Tribolium castaneum. For more information on the research of Chris Jacobs see his personal wegpage at http://www.science-explained.com
I am interested in the role of ecology on the development of insect eggs. My current research focuses of the role of the extraembryonic epithelium, the serosa, in the ability of insect eggs to survive ecological challenges.
I try to answer ecological questions by using molecular tools from the field of evo-devo. Through the use of these powerful tools (like RNA interference) I am able to test hypotheses that were previously impossible to answer.
Currently, my two main research themes are:
1) The protective value of the serosa in desiccation resistance.
Insects are the most diverse group on this planet. One important reason for their success is that they are able to survive on land. Surviving on land means surviving desiccation. By using RNAi, I can knock down the gene Tc-zen1. The knockdown of this gene prevents the extraembryonic serosa from developing. In this way I have access to eggs with and without a serosal epithelium.
Exposing these eggs to different ecological conditions (like low and high humidity) gives us insight in the adaptive value of this extraembryonic serosa. Furthermore, we are looking at several genes related to the formation of a waterproof cuticle in the egg and their effect on survival at low humidities.
2) The immune response in insect eggs.
The immune response in insects is quickly getting more and more attention due to their wide applicability to other organisms. Furthermore, the increase in bacterial strains resistant to antibiotics asks for a swift response from the scientific community.
Insects are the most diverse group of organisms on this planet and offer a wide variety of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). These AMPs might finally be useful as antibiotics, but more research is needed. In my work I look specifically at the immune response of the insect egg.
Whether or not the insect egg is able to mount an immune response was unknown, but recently we have published that the egg of the flour beetle is indeed able to mount an immune response. Furthermore, we also found that this response is dependent on the extraembryonic serosa. We are currently extending our knowledge of the immune response in the insect egg by looking closer at the flour beetle egg but also by looking at other insects.