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Cost and contexts of evolving immunity: through the lens of sex, microbes & germline maintenance.

Graduate Student Seminar Series | Devashish Kumar | Apr 28, 2023

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Immune response mounted against a pathogen is contingent on multiple factors. While life-history, physiological, and immunological constraints regulate the hosts' immune responses, multiple exposures with the same pathogen, coevolutionary history, and differences in the nature of the pathogen can add further complications. The diverse life-history and ecological contexts like aging and climate warming respectively make host-pathogen interactions even more heterogeneous. One such life history context is the sexual dimorphism in the immune response, a very important yet perniciously underappreciated variable. Sex-specific differences in immunity can be a result of divergent life history and the physiology of the host as well as differences in non-genetic factors like gut microbiota. The study of such inter-sexual differences in immunity is critical as we come to an age of personalized and targeted drug design and therapy. I propose to understand how host genetics and gut microbiota together might play a role in shaping the host’s response to a pathogen using the model organism Tenebrio molitor. Such alliances with the microbiome can change over an evolutionary timescale, therefore I will also track the evolutionary consequences of the tripartite interaction of the host, their microbiota, and pathogen using an experimental evolution approach. Another aspect of the host-pathogen interaction is the cost of eliciting an immune response which is also very much context-dependent. The immune response is far from perfect and incurs significant energetic and physiological burdens to the host. Additionally, a dysregulated immunity can cause immunopathological costs in the host. Using Tribolium castaneum (flour beetle) as a model system, I will be trying to gain mechanistic insights into a novel cost of immune activation on germline maintenance and DNA repair ability of the host, and how populations evolving against a pathogen can adapt to alleviate such costs.

About Speaker:

Devashish Kumar is a Ph.D. candidate in the Evolutionary Immunology lab under Dr. Imroze Khan at the Department of Biology, Ashoka University. Prior to joining his Ph.D., he did his M.Sc. in Life Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). His research interests include evolutionary biology, transgenerational epigenetics, and understanding the evolutionary implications of host-pathogen interactions.   


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