Georgios Koutsovoulos

Georgios Koutsovoulos

AgreenSkills session, year: 1st session, 2016

Receiving laboratory: ISA Sophia Agrobiotech Institute,PACA

Country of origin : United Kingdom




Mobility project

Genome Heterozygosity and Plasticity in Devastating Parthenogenetic Plant Pests

Plant parasites cause big crop losses affecting the agricultural industry worldwide. One of the most devastating group of plant pests are members of the genus Meloidogyne, also known as root-knot nematodes. Although the reproductive mode of this genus ranges from sexual to asexual species, there is a strong correlation between virulence and asexual mode of reproduction. Furthermore, it has been observed that asexually reproducing Meloidogyne species can overcome plant resistance within a few generations, which poses interesting questions about the effect of their genomic background on their adaptability to new environments. Firstly, this study will aim to characterise the level of genome variation by assessing genomics differences between populations of various geographical origins. Next, this analysis will deliver in the short term genes evolving under purifying selection that might be important for parasitism, and in the long term loci that are potentially important for Meloidogyne species to adapt in different environmental conditions. Through GWAS we will be able to identify SNPs and changes in allele frequencies between virulent and avirulent populations, and thus pinpoint loci related to the ability to break down plant resistance. Finally, by sequencing the genomes of several species at different time periods we will be able to calculate the mutation rate, and thus be able to estimate when the switch to asexuality occurred. Overall, this project will aim to address the implications of the rise of asexuality in Meloidogyne species, the levels of variability in clonal eukaryotes, and provide novel tools for controlling these plant parasites.

Biography & research interests

I am interested in all aspects of evolutionary biology but especially in genome evolution in parasitic species. During my PhD (2010-2014) in Edinburgh, UK I used next-generation sequencing to resolve the phylogeny of the phylum Nematoda in collaboration with multiple labs across the world. I have contributed to the genomic analyses of multiple nematode species aiming to solve various biological questions ranging from identifying ancestral bacterial symbiosis to hybrid origins of speciation events. After the conclusion of my PhD, I spent the next 18 months working within the NORNEX consortium to produce genomic resources for the investigation into ash dieback disease. In parallel, I was also involved in producing the first complete genome of the water bear Hypsibius dujardini. Recently, I finished working on a project involving the genome assembly and annotation of the nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus, a mouse parasite. My present research aims include addressing parasite-host interactions of Meloidogyne species in an evolutionary background and identifying mechanisms of plasticity in asexual lineages.

Selected publications

* Georgios Koutsovoulos, Sujai Kumar, Dominik R. Laetsch, Lewis Stevens, Jennifer Daub, Claire Conlon, Habib Maroon, Fran Thomas, Aziz A. Aboobaker, and Mark Blaxter. 2016. No evidence for extensive horizontal gene transfer in the genome of the tardigrade Hypsibius dujardini, PNAS, 113(18), 5053-5058;

Angus Davison, Gary S McDowell, Jennifer M Holden, Harriet F Johnson, Georgios D Koutsovoulos, M Maureen Liu, Paco Hulpiau, Frans Van Roy, Christopher M Wade, Ruby Banerjee, Fengtang Yang, Satoshi Chiba, John W Davey, Daniel J Jackson, Michael Levin, Mark L Blaxter. 2016. Formin is associated with left-right asymmetry in the pond snail and the frog, Current Biology, 26(5), 654-660;

* Mark Blaxter, Georgios Koutsovoulos. 2015. The evolution of parasitism in Nematoda, Parasitology, 142(S1), S26-S39;

* Georgios Koutsovoulos, Benjamin Makepeace, Vincent N Tanya, Mark Blaxter. 2014. Palaeosymbiosis revealed by genomic fossils of Wolbachia in a strongyloidean nematode, PLoS Genetics, 10(6), e1004397;

* David H Lunt, Sujai Kumar, Georgios Koutsovoulos, Mark L Blaxter. 2014. The complex hybrid origins of the root knot nematodes revealed through comparative genomics, PeerJ, 2, e356;

Sujai Kumar, Martin Jones, Georgios Koutsovoulos, Michael Clarke, Mark Blaxter. 2013. Blobology: exploring raw genome data for contaminants, symbionts and parasites using taxon-annotated GC-coverage plots, Frontiers in genetics, 4, 237;

Jianbin Wang, Makedonka Mitreva, Matthew Berriman, Alicia Thorne, Vincent Magrini, Georgios Koutsovoulos, Sujai Kumar, Mark L Blaxter, Richard E Davis. 2012. Silencing of germline-expressed genes by DNA elimination in somatic cells, Developmental cell, 23(5), 1072-1080;

Christelle Godel, Sujai Kumar, Georgios Koutsovoulos, Philipp Ludin, Daniel Nilsson, Francesco Comandatore, Nicola Wrobel, Marian Thompson, Christoph D Schmid, Susumu Goto, Frédéric Bringaud, Adrian Wolstenholme, Claudio Bandi, Christian Epe, Ronald Kaminsky, Mark Blaxter, Pascal Mäser. 2012. The genome of the heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, reveals drug and vaccine targets, The FASEB Journal, 26(11), 4650-4661.



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