Portrait of Dr Anastasios Tsaousis

Dr Anastasios Tsaousis

Reader in Molecular and Evolutionary Parasitology
Examinations Officer

About

As an undergraduate student Anastasios (Tasos) studied Biology at University of Crete, Greece (1999-2003). There, he had the opportunity to complete his final year project on "Studying mitochondrial DNA recombination in the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis". On completion of his undergraduate studies he started working at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics as a Research Technician where he was involved in different projects in the field of human and cancer genetics. In parallel, he was also working on a project in collaboration with different laboratories, in an attempt to discover possible recombination in the mitochondrial DNA of animals from already published sequences.
During his PhD studies (2004-2007), he sought to understand the purpose and diversity of mitochondria in microbial eukaryotes. For this reason, he joined the group of Prof. T. Martin Embley and Prof. Robert P. Hirt at the Newcastle University. There, he studied the evolution and function of the mitochondrion-related organelles of microsporidia. His studies presented the first experimental evidence for the existence of a remnant mitochondrion (mitosome) in the microsporidian Encephalitozoon cuniculi. His research also demonstrated the first experimental evidence for the localization and function of a non-mitochondrial ATP transporter in the microsporidian mitosome, the presence of which potentially solves the conundrum of how the mitosome acquires its energy. A second set of data from his PhD studies demonstrated that a functional role of the microsporidian mitosome is an essential eukaryotic pathway- iron/sulphur (Fe/S) cluster biosynthesis; this pathway is believed to be the reason for the existence of mitochondria and related organelles.
As a postdoctoral researcher Anastasios moved to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada (2008-2012), where he joined Prof. Andrew J. Roger's group. There he was involved in several investigations on the characterization of mitochondrial pathways in anaerobic protists and how lateral gene transfer (LGT) affects their adaptation to their unique lifestyles. In 2012, he moved to the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic to join Prof. Jan Tachezy's group (as part of his Marie Curie fellowship), where he initiated several studies on the biochemistry and protein composition of mitochondria in anaerobic microbial eukaryotes.
In July 2013, Anastasios joined the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent as a Lecturer. He is now a Senior Lecturer in Molecular and Evolutionary Parasitology. Not only does he teach on various modules both in undergraduate and postgraduate level, he was also an Outreach Officer of the School (2014-2018), a Director of MSc by Research (2017-2018), GMO officer (2014-2018) and he initiated the Resistance Pathogenicity of Infectious Diseases (RAPID group) within the School of Biosciences. He is currently the Chief examiner of the School of Biosciences. Outside the University of Kent, Anastasios has been actively involved with many national and international societies. He has been member of the Eukaryotic Division of the Microbiology Society since 2015 (organised various sessions in the 2015, 2017 & 2018 annual meetings), he is currently the Vice President of the Protistology-UK society (since 2018) and has been elected five times as a member of the executive committee of the International Society for Evolutionary Protistology (since 2010). In 2018, he successfully organised the 22nd meeting of the International Society for Evolutionary Protistology in Paphos, Cyprus.
Anastasios is the Principal Investigator of the Laboratory of Molecular and Evolutionary Parasitology at the University of Kent. The current research of his laboratory is focused on the investigations of the adaptations of microbial eukaryotic organisms (e.g. Cryptosporidium, Blastocystis, Naegleria, Gregarines, ciliates), and their course in parasitic evolution and diversity. To accomplish this, his laboratory is combining detailed bioinformatics analyses of newly generated genomic/transcriptomic/metabolomic results with field, cell biological and biochemical methods to investigate the parasitic and free-living microbial eukaryotes living in diverse and extreme environments. He has currently obtained funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Royal Society. 

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5424-1905

Research interests

Cryptosporidium and cryptosporidiosis Cryptosporidiosis is a diaorrheal disease caused by Cryptosporidium, a pathogen of great medical importance, which has appeared in the headlines several times in the past decades. An important fact about cryptosporidiosis is the lack of medical treatment in the form of drugs or vaccines. The parasite is mainly affecting children of a young age (below five), but people with impaired immune systems are also at great risk. In some cases, infected individuals have to deal with unpleasant diarrhoea lasting for several weeks, leading to dehydration that could potentially be deadly. Information on the infection patterns of the parasite and its interactions with the host is very limited, due to the lack of a laboratory system that will enable us to monitor the infection and replication processes of Cryptosporidium within a cell. Our laboratory has managed to overcome this difficulty by infecting with Cryptosporidium different types of cancer cells in a laboratory setting and testing whether they could successfully allow the parasite to grow and replicate. Our laboratory is currently interested to investigate which metabolites the parasite steals from the host cell and how it manipulates the molecular mechanisms of the host for its benefit. Our work will demonstrate what the molecular interactions between Cryptosporidium and its host are, will provide a better understanding of how complex the life-cycle of the parasite is and will generate essential knowledge about this medically important pathogen and will provide new targets for anti-parasitic drug development.

Additional research costs: £1500 

Establishing Naegleria as a model system to investigate adaptations to eukaryotic cellular adaptations 
This project aims to develop tools and use them to study an organism that is neither animal, plant, algae, nor parasite. It is a single-celled creature living in soils and freshwater around the world. This creature, Naegleria gruberi, possesses nearly all of the cellular features found in animal and plant cells, but evolved away from them nearly 1.5 billion years ago. It is a uniquely placed sampling point from which to collect information about how cells work and gain a global perspective applicable to all eukaryotic cells. Our laboratory is currently developing a state-of-the-art genome editing system based on CRISPR/Cas9 based methodology. The overall outcome of this project is to produce a set of protocols, plasmids and tools to be used by the scientific community to address diverse scientific questions, using Naegleria gruberi as a model system. 
Additional Research costs: £2000

Exploring the anaerobic and other unique adaptations of Blastocystis Blastocystis is an obligate anaerobic parasite also found in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The actual pathogenicity of Blastocystis is still questionable, since currently there is no direct link between the parasite and the disease caused. As an anaerobic organism, Blastocystis harbor peculiar Mitochondrion-related organelles (MROs), which are considered to be an intermediate form between a typical mitochondrion and a hydrogenosome. . Using a combination of bioinformatics along with cellular and biochemical techniques, our laboratory aims to investigate these “novel” functions in Blastocystis and its closely relatives (e.g. Proteromonas) and attempt to understand their evolutionary history and the reason for their existence.
Additional research costs: £2000

Teaching

  • BI505 Infection and Immunity  
  • BI606 Pathogens and Pathogenicity 
  • BI855 Advances in Parasitology 
  • DP1625 Advances in eukaryotic diversity and evolution

Supervision

MSc-R projects available for 2020/21

Investigating the effect of both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in the diversity of the human gut microbiome (Joint supervision with Dr Jeremy Rossman)
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact in our lifestyle during the last year. Despite the fact that this virus is mainly affecting the respiratory tract, several reports have demonstrated its presence in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of humans as well. Therefore, the presence of the virus could have long-term consequences in the health of an individual. In this project, using a combination of wet-lab techniques and bioinformatics, the MSc by Research student will investigate the effects of COVID-19 infection in the diversity and function of the gut microbiome. Results from this project will:

(1) provide us with new diagnostic tools, 
(2) allow us to explore the effect of the virus in the gut microbiome composition and abundance, and lastly
(3) elucidate whether detected shifts are conducive to causing potential future GI-related diseases (e.g. explore whether changes in the gut microbiome of COVID-19 positive individuals will make them susceptible to infections by other gut pathogens). Thus, this project will significantly contribute in elucidating the long-term pathogenesis of the virus in the gut. 
Additional research costs: £1500  

Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model to explore the pathogenic role(s) of microbial gut parasites
(joint supervision with Dr. Marina Ezcurra) Microbial gut parasites such as Blastocystis, Entamoeba, Giardia and Cryptosporidium have been long associated with severe gastrointestinal diseases, but recent reports have also demonstrated their presence in asymptomatic individuals and animals. . The aim of this project is to use C. elegans as a model to explore not only the effect of these parasites have in the host, but also on the rest of the gut microbiome. The student will gain experience in various culturing methods (nematodes, parasites and bacteria), microscopy, metabolomics and large-scale data analysis of metagenomics sequencing.
Additional research costs: £1500 

Exploring Cryptosporidium transportome and how it affects the intracellular interactions with its host Co-Supervisor: Dr Christopher Mulligan Cryptosporidium is an obligate intracellular intestinal parasite of various animals that causes cryptosporidiosis, a diaorrheal disease that is most common in young children and is severe in immunosuppressed humans. We hypothesise that these transporters play significant role in the adaptations of the parasite in an intracellular lifestyle and its interactions/communication with the host. The purpose of this project is to explore the localisation and function(s) of these transporters, identify potential links associated with the adaptation to parasitic lifestyle, while exploring probable candidates for tackling cryptosporidiosis.
Additional research costs: £1500

Exploring the eukaryotic gut microbiome among animals  This project will be in collaboration with local conservation parks in the Kent region, where the student will use multidisciplinary approaches to investigate the eukaryotic residents of the gut microflora from different animals, either living in the wild or in captivity (including farms). 
Additional research costs: £1500

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