Research week 6: Done and dusted

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Hi everyone! It’s been a while since my last post. After my last official research week, I opted to take a lovely break from work to reorientate myself for the next academic year 😀.

My last week involved looking at the sequence alignment I had using Aliview for over 500 sequences from members of the order Anura (aka beautiful frogs 🐸). To analyse all amphibians would have been a monumental task, that most definitely would not have fit into my six-week allotted research period, so my focus became frogs for the rest of my research. Based on the reference paper that I based the specific chytridiomycosis resistant allele on from Bataille et al. (2015), I had four positions of interest in my sequence alignment at positions 37, 56, 57, and 60. These are responsible for the P9 binding pocket of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Since antigens from the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis that causes chytridiomycosis binds to this p9 binding pocket and leads to an immune response in amphibians, it is vital for the shape of the binding pocket to be optimally suited, like a lock and key, for the most effective initiation of the immune response to survive infection!

After taking note of the amino acids at these sites for each sequence,  I looked at whether the majority had the known resistant genotype and found some promising results. Based on preliminary findings, it seems that a significant percentage do in fact have the resistant genotype, but work is to be done before my final figures are complete for my research poster which I will put up on the network! Even though my 6 weeks are up, I’m going to be spending the next while creating some pretty figures of phylogenetic trees and other graphs for my research poster using the data I’ve collected.

Overall, I had an amazing experience conducting my research and it’s mainly thanks to my wonderful supervisor and her lab group who really supported me throughout, I couldn’t thank them enough! I’ve learned lots of new skills like python and various other computer programming tidbits which made me realise that I just didn’t know how to use my computer at all before this experience! This will not be my last blog post; I’ve decided to continue writing up my thoughts of the Laidlaw leadership events as they happen so I do a healthy bit of a reflection and others can see what I get up to during the scholarship! I hope everyone is having a fulfilling summer and I’ll be back soon 😀

Jessica Mahon

Human Genetics undergraduate student , Trinity College Dublin

Hi, I'm Jessica Mahon, and I am interested in genetics, both from a conservation and a human standpoint. I'm in 3rd year of Human Genetics at Trinity College Dublin. I'm from Ireland and speak both English and Irish. I spend my spare time taking part in yoga, meditating and enjoying the outdoors. 

My Laidlaw research project is based on the genetic susceptibility of amphibians to chytridiomycosis disease to find a new conservation method for susceptible amphibian species. I'd love to chat with others who are interested in genetics and science!