Faculty mentor: Dr. Bret Boyd
In a nutshell: This study analyzes the similarities among genetic materials of six insect-associated bacteria to see if the horizontal gene transfer happened among these bacteria.
In a bigger shell: Symbioses with bacteria is a driver of insect evolution and cladogenesis that has helped shape terrestrial ecosystems. Virus vectored genes, the insertion of genetic material into cells, are known to impact insect-bacterial symbiosis, but are known from only a few case studies. In this study we sought to identify the sharing of viral genes between insect-associated bacteria (Arsenophonus, Sodalis, Yersinia, Erwinia, Photorhabdus, Xenorhabdus, Morganella, Proteus, Providencia). We identified phage-like genes in the genomes of insect associated bacteria using established tools. The expected results are shared virus associated material from phylogeny which infer that horizontal gene transfer happened in insect-associated bacteria. The overall goal of this study is to determine if the genes that enter through horizontal gene transfer can change the phenotype and the morphology of the host. This allows the insect-associated bacteria to act as an endosymbiont to insects and help the insect adapt to agricultural and medical situations.
End of year goal: The end goal is to see if there is shared virus associated material from phylogeny which will help us infer that horizontal gene transfer happened in insect-associated bacteria.
A tip for others: A tip for others who want to work on something similar is to be organized as we analyzed the phage sequences of many insect-associated bacteria. Organization will help in getting through the research faster and more efficiently and one will be able to access information more easily.