EVOGENE seminar: Mark van der Giezen - Mitochondrial evolution - the intestinal parasite Blastocystis
Decennia of research on model organisms has provided us with a wealth of biochemical detail and in-depth understanding of mitochondria. But, do we really understand mitochondrial biochemistry?
Decennia of research on model organisms has provided us with a wealth of biochemical detail and in-depth understanding of mitochondria. The citric acid cycle and electron transport chain even have made it into secondary school exam material. However, do we really understand mitochondrial biochemistry? Or do we merely understand rat liver or beef heart mitochondria in quite specific detail but actually know surprisingly little about the mitochondrial diversity in the large majority of the eukaryotes.
My research has mainly focused on mitochondrial adaptations to anoxia as faced by many microbial eukaryotes, for example as found in the intestine. In this seminar I will present work on the intestinal parasite Blastocystis, the most common eukaryotic inhabitant of the human gut. Blastocystis is considered a strict anaerobe and has a rather unusual mitochondrial metabolism. Classic mitochondrial pathways are absent or heavily modified and several new pathways are present. Recently, we discovered that the second half of glycolysis is actually mitochondrial in Blastocystis and not in the cytosol. All such findings suggest that if we had had chosen our model organisms differently, our textbooks would have been quite different.
For more information, see www.vandergiezen.org
"I trained as a molecular biologist who did a PhD in a Microbial Ecology department (University of Groningen, the Netherlands) working on unusual organelles in rumen fungi. This shaped my career as I continued working on anaerobic microbial eukaryotes and their peculiar mitochondria. As most anaerobes that receive funding are parasites, my research shifted somewhat to molecular parasitology. After postdocs in London at the Natural History Museum and Royal Holloway, I got my own lab as Lecturer in Microbiology at Queen Mary, University of London. In 2007, I moved to the University of Exeter in England as Senior Lecturer and ultimately Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry. There I started working on fisheries and aquaculture parasites as well. This summer I moved to the University of Stavanger to the Centre for Organelle Research where I hope to continue working on unusual mitochondria and fisheries relevant parasites."