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Research Abstracts Online
January 2009 - March 2010

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
Department of Entomology

PI: Timothy J. Kurtti
Co-PI: Ulrike G. Munderloh

Divergent Evolution of Pathogenic and Mutualistic Rickettsiae

The goal of this project is to sequence the genomes of selected symbiotic rickettsiae that colonize ticks, in order to gain insight into the fundamental question of what a tick symbiont is. The central hypothesis is that ticks require symbiotic microbes for their survival, and that nonpathogenic rickettsiae fulfill this function. The researchers posit that a transition in genomic structure is driven by plasmids and mobile genetic elements (insertion sequences). They also predict that tick symbionts carry genes for conjugation and horizontal gene transfer between themselves, other rickettsiae, and possibly other genera of intracellular bacteria co-infecting the same tick. The genome sequences of two rickettsiae will shed light on the common features they share as symbionts. The researchers are sequencing rickettsial genomic DNA and are using software at Supercomputing Institute laboratories for their analyses.

Group Members

Adela Oliva Chavez, Graduate Student
Rod Felsheim, Staff
Michael Herron, Staff
Curt Nelson, Staff