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 2021

Developing an oxygen sensitive protein expression system based on proteins from anaerobic protozoa (MSc by Research Genetics

Jointly supervised with Dr. Tobias von der Haar

Fe-S clusters are ubiquitous and essential co-factors in all living cells. They are present in important proteins involved in transcription, translation, DNA replication, DNA repair, amino acid synthesis, nucleotide metabolism, iron uptake and regulation, etc. Fe-S cluster biosynthesis is also considered the reason for the universal existence of mitochondria in all eukaryotes, since Fe-S cluster maturation involves essential cellular functions. Heterologous expression of eukaryotic Fe-S proteins is one of the most difficult tasks in synthetic biology, due to the sensitivity of these proteins to different environmental factors (e.g. oxygen). Anaerobic microbial eukaryotes (protozoa) have developed unique tools to overcome these difficulties. Among these are Fe-S cluster assembly machineries that have diversified their functions to survive the specialised lifestyles of these organisms.

The purpose of the proposed project is to modify the Fe-S maturation machinery of yeast, a widespread fungal synthetic biology chassis, with proteins from anaerobic protozoa. The efficacy of the heterologous systems will be tested using specific Fe-S cluster proteins with potential biotechnological application

This project will provide knowledge and tools that can be used to: (i) improve the roles and associations of the eukaryotic Fe-S cluster assembly and translational machineries in synthetic biology, (ii) develop yeast strains with novel functions and adaptations in different environmental conditions that can be used for bioproduction and/or bioremediation, and (iii) establish novel expression systems for the production of anaerobic proteins and systems to be used in the synthesis of oxygen-sensitive biocompounds. The project will bring together the expertise and supervisory roles of an anaerobic biochemist (Dr. Tsaousis) with that of a systems biologist (Dr. von der Haar) to ensure that all goals will be met

Investigating the effect of both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in the diversity of the human gut microbiome (MSc by Research Microbiology)

Jointly supervised 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

Further projects: Bio Blog

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