Project properties

Title Searching for the hallmarks of complementary sex determination in the genomes of parasitoid wasps - Can be done remotely/online!
Group Entomology, Laboratory of
Project type thesis
Credits 24-36
Supervisor(s) Supervisor(s) Dr. Kim Ferguson - Laboratory of Genetics - kim.ferguson@wur.nl
Dr. Bart Pannebakker � Laboratory of Genetics � bart.pannebakker@wur.nl
Dr. Eveline Verhulst � Laboratory of Entomology � eveline.verhulst@wur.nl
Examiner(s) Prof. Bas Zwaan
Contact info Dr. Kim Ferguson - Laboratory of Genetics - kim.ferguson@wur.nl
Begin date 2020/12/01
End date 2021/02/28
Description When it comes to insects, developing into a male or female is rarely straightforward. In the insect order Hymenoptera, the overarching principle is that unfertilized eggs develop into haploid males, and fertilized eggs develop into diploid females. However, a variety of mechanisms can be involved in the sex determination pathways, one of which is called complementary sex determination (CSD). In this mechanism two different forms of the csd allele (i.e. heterozygosity) lead to diploid female development, while hemi- and homozygous individuals develop into haploid and diploid males respectively. Lowered genetic diversity and inbreeding in the population can quickly lead to an increase of diploid males and this can wreak havoc on breeding systems. With inbreeding experiments it has been hypothesized to be a sex determination system in many Hymenoptera.

Up until now, the csd gene has only been identified in the honeybee, Apis mellifera, as a duplicated gene of another sex determination gene, feminizer. Our recent work into the parasitoid wasp Bracon brevicornis attempted to identify the csd gene, and our initial results seem promising. We also found a paralog of B. brevicornis feminizer (Bbfem) and named it Bbfem1. Initially, the region was annotated to be a completely different gene product that looked like a fusion of two other genes, but closer inspection shows that the region in interest fulfils the checklist for similar regions related to sex determination. So perhaps similar paralogs/orthologs can be found in closely related species that are known to exhibit CSD?

In this project, _which is able to be performed entirely remotely_, you will work with existing sequence data from several related species to B. brevicornis, using bioinformatic tools to identify similar regions for further investigation. This project will be _fairly independent and computer-based_ (assistance provided), and outcomes are strengthened by knowledge in bioinformatics, molecular biology, and data management. While aimed at being home-based work, there is a _possibility for lab work_ if desired, as well as possibilities for in-person meetings. Candidate(s) will be based in both the Laboratory of Genetics and the Laboratory of Entomology (Wageningen University), and have access to the online tools necessary for the project. Further consultation with outside experts is probable, introducing candidates to a variety of contacts within Europe.
Used skills Experimental work: bioinformatics (strong preference), data management, problem solving
(Optional) Molecular laboratory techniques: DNA extraction, PCR analysis, sequence analysis (in silico and in vivo); data analysis.
Requirements Basic knowledge of ecology and molecular biology. For example, obtained through (but not limited to): Molecular and Evolutionary Ecology (GEN20306).