Identification of Genes Involved in the Bradyzoite Differentiation Pathway of Toxoplasma gondii
Pamela is from Massachusetts and earned a MS from the University of Vermont in 2008 where she worked under the supervision of Dr. Mariana Matrajt studying the developmental process of differentiation in the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Bond and Dr. Giselle Sholler using microarray and statistical analyses to understand cellular heterogeneity within Neuroblastoma patient samples with an eye towards personalized medicine. The University of Vermont combines cutting-edge research with a warm and competitive community in a beautiful country setting.
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate, intracellular parasite that has the ability to infect almost any nucleated animal cell. Infection is asymptomatic in immunocompetent individuals but can cause life threatening complications in immunocompromised individuals. Toxoplasma replicates both sexually and asexually. Sexual reproduction only occurs in cats and the infectious sporozoites are released through the feces. Asexual reproduction occurs in a wide range of intermediate hosts and consists of two developmental stages; the fast growing tachyzoites and the slow growing bradyzoites. Infection most often occurs through ingestion of raw meat that contains bradyzoite cysts. Since the asexual cycle is clearly central to toxoplasma pathogenesis, we are interested in studying the interconversion between tachyzoites and bradyzoites. In order to identify genes that regulate the conversion between these two stages, a transgenic parasite line harboring a selectable marker was generated and used to screen for parasites unable to form bradyzoites. At present, my research focuses on identifying and characterizing the genes affected in one of the bradyzoite differentiation mutants, B7.
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