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Practical matters How to find us prof. dr. B. (Bregje) Wertheim

prof. dr. B. (Bregje) Wertheim

Professor & Rosalind Franklin Fellow - Evolutionary biology of ecological interactions

Research interests

1) The adaptable genome

A large part of the genome has evolved to deal with the ecological interactions of an organism with its environment. Most of the traits or processes that have evolved for these interactions are complex, with many genes involved, and often the ability to respond to variation in the environmental conditions. For the analysis of such a complex genetic architecture of traits and processes, the genomic toolbox is required. These tools allows us to trace the impact of the ecological interactions on the evolution of the genome. We aim to elucidate the genomic variation and genetic networks underlying the evolution of complex traits in ecological interactions, using a combination of experimentation, genomic approaches and bioinformatics.

We study the evolutionary genomics of ecological interactions in Drosophila fruitflies, where we can combine our extensive understanding of their ecology with the formidable molecular toolbox and knowledge on mechanistic processes for various life history traits. Also in several other organisms, we investigate the complex genetic architecture of adaptive traits, and how they evolve. To investigate the changes in the genome that occur during evolution, we study host-parasite co-evolution, competitive turf wars for food, sexual conflicts, the impact of abiotic factors (e.g. temperature, light), as well as the complex interactions with the microbiome.

Current and completed projects:

  • Peter Hoitinga: Evolution of complex genetic networks in immunity
  • Natalie van Dis: Eco-evolutionary dynamics in the Winter moth, Operophtera brumata: the mechanism of adaptation to changing ecological conditions due to climate change
  • Tianhao Zhao: Phenotypic and genetic differences of migratory songbirds from central China migration flyway
  • Jorge Amayo Romero: How species of malaria vector mosquitoes emerged and evolved in the Anopheles gambiae complex in face of widespread introgressive hybridization
  • Ilaria Manfredonia: Transcriptome-scale identification and molecular characterization of proteins with RNA chaperone activity.
  • Yifan Wang: Circadian light entrainment in Nasonia
  • Laura Salazar Jaramillo: Comparative genomics of parasitoid resistance in Drosophila species
  • Kirsten M. Jalvingh: The genetic basis of parasitoid resistance of D. melanogaster in artificially selections population
  • Sylvia Gerritsma: Genomic variation in natural populations of D. melanogaster contributing to resistance against the parasitoid Asobara tabida 
  • Monika Trienens: Functional genomic analysis of the co-evolutionary arms race between Drosophila and Aspergillis
  • Jessy Rouhana: Evolutionary genomics of the enigmatic Sex Peptide: a male ‘master regulator’ of female reproduction 
  • Maria Chaplinska: Microbiome of natural D. melanogaster populations
  • Kiran Gurung: The role of microbial symbionts in the niche shift of Drososphila suzukii
  • Tiphaine Bailly: Life with others - Function and mechanisms of social modulation of behaviour and physiology in Drosophila melanogaster

2) IPM strategies for the invasive Drosophila suzukii

The Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii, is an invasive fruit fly from Asia that infests ripening fruit. It is rapidly spreading north in Europe and already causes millions of euros of damage in the fruit industry. We can capitalize on our extensive expertise in Drosophila chemical ecology, insect reproduction, insect evolutionary genetics, and interactions with parasitoids and pathogens, and aim to develop innovative and locally attuned approaches for the management of this invasive pest. 

Current and completed projects:

  • Karla Escobedo Quevedo:Development and effectiveness of bait sprays as part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of Drosophila suzukii
  • Dahise Brilinger: Integrated management of Drosophila suzukii: insecticidal activity of Matrine and optimization of toxic baits application
  • Aurore Panel: Fundamentals of D. suzukii biology in the Netherlands
  • Astrid Kruitwagen: Biological control strategies  of  the invasive pest Drosophila suzukii: selective breeding of natural enemies
  • Jeroen Alkema (WUR): Crop protection strategies of the invasive pest Drosophila suzukii: a "push-pull" approach

3) Insects as sustainable feed for a circular economy

With the expected growth of the human population, an increase in global food production of at least 60 percent above 2006 levels is projected. However, the food system is a major driver of climate change, so that reductions in food loss and waste are required as well. Current feed production for livestock competes with food production for humans (e.g. cereals and soymeal) or relies on resources that threaten biodiversity (e.g. overfishing for fishmeal). For a novel circular and sustainable approach to feed production, insects provide excellent opportunities because various species can be reared on organic residual streams. In recent years, insect production for feed has been initiated (e.g., for aquaculture) and this industry is expected to grow rapidly in the near future, considering that insects are expected to soon be allowed as feed for pigs and poultry.

The InsectFeed project aims to (1) investigate insect production, especially focussing on insect health, insect welfare and the intrinsic value of insects, (2) investigate health and welfare of livestock that is fed with insects and (3) conduct an economic analysis of the value chain development, i.e. the development of an integrated set of activities to deliver a valuable product. To achieve our aim, an interdisciplinary research approach (ethics, economics, biology),
and the involvement of a various stakeholders is developed.

Current projects:

  • Maaike Vogel: Housefly health and immunology under mass rearing conditions
  • Anna Voulgari Kokota: Housefly health and immunology under mass rearing conditions: the role of the microbiome
  • Marrit van der Bruggen: Housefly behaviour and well-being under mass rearing conditions
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Adaptations and counter-adaptations in Drosophila host-parasitoid interactions: Advances in the molecular mechanisms

Coenzyme A precursors flow from mother to zygote and from microbiome to host

Evolution of parasitoid host preference and performance in response to an invasive host acting as evolutionary trap

Health of the black soldier fly and house fly under mass-rearing conditions: innate immunity and the role of the microbiome

Houseflies harbor less diverse microbiota under laboratory conditions but maintain a consistent set of host-associated bacteria

More persistent bacterial than fungal associations in the microbiota of a pest insect

Social modulation of oogenesis and egg-laying in Drosophila melanogaster

Transcriptional regulation underlying the temperature response of embryonic development rate in the winter moth

Artificial selection for nonreproductive host killing in a native parasitoid on the invasive pest, Drosophila suzukii

Does Drosophila sechellia escape parasitoid attack by feeding on a toxic resource?

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Waar komen al die fruitvliegjes ineens vandaan?

Last van fruitvliegjes? Hoe houd je ze buiten?

Waar komen die fruitvliegjes ineens vandaan?

Hoogvliegers: Waar zouden we zijn zonder de fruitvlieg

Pas op voor gevaarlijke exotische fruitvliegjes: Zo kom je ervan af

Article contribution in Science Journal for Kids and Teens

Waar ligt de kiem van fruitvliegjes?

Vliegen belazeren elkaar in de liefde

More integrated measures against Suzuki fruitfly

Zijn er meer fruitvliegen dan vroeger?

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