Title: Could blood digestion be the poultry red mite’s Achille’s heel – a novel ‘omic and gene knockdown approach to the control of Dermanyssus gallinae.
Location: Moredun Research Institute (MRI), Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Edinburgh. EH26 0PZ.
Supervisors: Dr Stewart Burgess (MRI); Dr Alasdair Nisbet (MRI) and Dr Alan Bowman and Jerry Sternberg (University of Aberdeen)
Infestation of laying hen houses with poultry red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) causes major animal welfare and economic problems for the egg-producing industry worldwide, costing in excess of €231 million per year in the European Union alone in control and production losses. Demand for novel methods of control is driven by the inadequacy of many current chemotherapeutic control methods, which results in uncontrolled infestations, substantial welfare issues and commercial losses. New methods of control require a fuller understanding of the parasite’s physiology and the host-parasite relationship. To this end, we recently created a draft genome of D. gallinae, initiated gene knockdown (RNAi) studies and developed a novel feeding device for the mites.
Blood-feeding parasites need to efficiently lyse and catabolise red blood cells as part of their nutrition and this involves a cascade of haemolytic and proteolytic factors to liberate nutrients. However, this also results in the production of potentially toxic heme from haemoglobin and requires specific handling processes to reduce its toxicity. Could this be the poultry mite’s Achilles’ Heel that may lead to a novel control approach?
The studentship will explore blood digestion in the mite by using transcriptome- and genome-guided RNAi to suppress elements of the digestive cascade and will investigate how the mite handles heme to better understand these fundamental processes in mite nutrition. The student will be trained in bioinformatic interrogation of the D. gallinae genome and transcriptome to identify genes involved in blood digestion and heme detoxification and will then use a combination of gene silencing and electron microscopy to investigate the critical elements of the food digestion processes of the mites.
For more information and to apply, please click here.
Closing Date: 12th April 2019.