Emerging diseases represent an important threat to human health. Many birds (similar to bats) are key vectors of zoonotic infections. While presently underdeveloped, evolutionary research in molecular convergence (sharing of molecular adaptations) could aid in showing zoonotic potentials in different hosts. In silico detection of convergence can predict functionally relevant sites diversifying immune genes across species. The objective of this project is to identify convergent adaptations modulating inflammatory responses to different pathogens in birds. The main aim is to provide a proof of concept by testing the functional effects of selected convergent variants on immune responsiveness (in vitro / in vivo). The applicant will resolve 3 key challenges: 1. reveal how frequent molecular convergence is across different groups of inflammatory genes; 2. in selected candidates test for the functional effects of variants on immune responsiveness; 3. identify links between specific variants and compositions of microbial communities inhabiting the hosts. By exploring their links to avian microbiota, the work will allow prediction of host-symbiont associations. The project will take the advantage of a cutting-edge multidisciplinary approach linking biodiversity-based evolutionary analysis with structural modelling, searching for predictive tools for understanding host variation in disease susceptibility.

Five relevant publications of the research group:

Henschen A.E., Vinkler M., Langager M.M., Rowley A.A., Dalloul R.A., Hawley D.M. & Adelman J.S. (2023): Rapid adaptation to a novel pathogen through disease tolerance in a wild songbird. PLoS Pathogens 19(6): e1011408; DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011408 (IF2022 = 6.7)

Krchlíková V., Hron T., Těšický M., Li T., Ungrová L., Hejnar J., Vinkler M. & Elleder D. (2023): Dynamic evolution of avian RNA virus sensors: Repeated loss of RIG-I and RIPLET. Viruses 15, 3; DOI: 10.3390/v15010003 (IF2022 = 4.7)

Minias P. & Vinkler M. (2022): Selection balancing at innate immune genes: Adaptive polymorphism maintenance in Toll-like receptors. Molecular Biology and Evolution 39 (5): msac102; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msac102 (IF2022 = 10.7)

Těšický M., Velová H., Novotný M.. Kreisinger J., Beneš V. & Vinkler M. (2020): Positive selection and convergent evolution shape molecular phenotypic traits of innate immunity receptors in tits (Paridae). Molecular Ecology 29 (16): 3056-3070; DOI: 10.1111/mec.15547 (IF2020 = 6.185)

Velová H., Gutowska-Ding M. W., Burt D. W. & Vinkler M. (2018): Toll-like receptor evolution in birds: gene duplication, pseudogenisation and diversifying selection. Molecular Biology and Evolution 35(9): 2170–2184. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msy119 (IF2018 = 14.797)

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