Andrea Graham (Princeton)
MolBio Seminar Series
Andrea earned an A.B. in Biology and Sculpture from Mount Holyoke College in 1992, after which she taught both subjects in NYC public high schools. In 2001, she earned a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (of parasites!) from Cornell University and moved to University of Edinburgh for a postdoc in immunology. She then obtained independent research fellowships (from the Leverhulme Trust, 2004-06, and then the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, 2006-10) to establish her own research group in Edinburgh. She moved to Princeton in 2011.
Optimal Immune Defense In This Wormy World
Intestinal nematodes are among the most prevalent parasites of mammals: it’s a Wormy World indeed. Heavy nematode infections are detrimental to host health and evolutionary fitness, but immune defense against them can also be costly (e.g., by depleting protein or causing immunopathology). What, then, is the optimal type and magnitude of immune response for a host to mount? In nature, minimizing the cost-benefit ratio for defense against nematodes is not a static problem. For example, the relative costs of parasitism and defense vary with environment, condition, and co-infection. In two model systems, one wild (sheep) and one captive (mice), I will consider these questions: To what extent do hosts achieve optimal defense that maximizes their survival and reproduction? How well do nematode-infected hosts manage co-infections? And, ultimately, why do hosts exhibit such varied susceptibility to nematode infection?
Andrea and her group study how natural selection has shaped strategies for both host defense and parasite transmission. Particular areas of interest are immunological conflicts posed by co-infection, the effects of strong immune responses upon both host and parasite fitness, and selection pressures that shape the speed and specificity of immune responses.
Free and open to the university community and the public