Research Fellows Directory
Dr Pauline Scanlan
National University of Ireland, Cork (UCC)
We are no longer considered just human, but "supra-organisms" - a composite of human and microbial genes that interact to develop and maintain our physiology and homeostasis. The majority of these microbes are bacteria that reside in our gut, which is essentially a complex microbial ecosystem responsible for many crucial functions including digesting food, producing secondary metabolites and priming our immune system. Although each of us harbors a unique and highly diverse gut microbiota, the factors driving variation in microbial diversity in the gut and the consequences of this variation on microbial ecosystem functionality remain poorly understood.
My research primarily focuses on host-parasite antagonistic coevolution between bacteria (host) and bacteriophages (their lytic viral parasites) and its role in mediating the evolution and ecology of both host and parasite. Much of my work to date has been conducted in vitro under simplified conditions. Using a combination of genetic and phenotypic analysis I have shown that although antagonistic coevolution is a key driver of microbial diversity it can constrain the ability of bacteria to adapt to the abiotic environment. Bacteria and bacteriophage are abundant in the human gut; yet, we know little about how they interact and the relative importance of antagonistic coevolution in structuring and driving variation in diversity and function of this complex microbial ecosystem. My broad research goal is to develop and apply appropriate in vivo models to investigate the impact of such inter-species interactions on inter-individual variation in the diversity and function of the gut microbiota. Given that changes in microbial diversity and functionality in the gut are associated with several epidemic, high burden diseases including obesity, cancers, and inflammatory conditions, my work is also highly relevant to the real-world issue of such gut-related health problems.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)