College of Food, Ag & Nat Res Sci
This project aims to sequence genomes of selected rickettsiae and anaplasma that colonize ticks, in order to gain insights into the fundamental question, "What distinguishes a tick symbiont from a pathogen?" The Kurtti group's central hypothesis is that ticks require symbiotic microbes for their survival, and that nonpathogenic rickettsiae fulfill this function. They 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. Software resources available through MSI are used for this project. RNA-seq data will also be generated to study different stages and growth condition of Ixodes scapularis.