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Biological Sciences

Dr. Brittany F. Peterson

Portrait of Dr. Brittany F. PetersonAssistant Professor

Ph.D. Purdue University, 2016

Office: SW 1285
Research Lab: SW 1340
Phone: (618) 650-2453


Courses Taught: Microbiology (BIOL 350), Biological Sciences Colloquium I (BIOL 492), Biological Sciences Colloquium II (BIOL 492M), Graduate Colloquium in Biology (BIOL 592).

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding the physiological mechanisms governing, modulating, and perpetuating symbiotic interactions and how these mechanisms lead to adaptive traits in the host organisms. Using a variety of taxa, I ask questions across a spectrum of symbiotic complexity from simple one-to-one symbioses to diverse, microbial microecosystems. Currently, we are working to dissect these associations in two insect systems: locusts and termites.

Locusts are interesting because of their phase shift from solitarious to migratory behaviors. Though there are many factors that impact locust behavioral polyphenism, we hypothesize that changes to gut microbiota alter feeding preferences and drive shifts in hormonal regulation during development.

Termite symbiosis is one of the longest studied animal symbioses. In the one microliter gut paunch of a worker termite live thousands of microbes representing all three domains of life. Through symbiosis termites are able to feed on a wood diet, fend off pathogens, and supplement their nutrition. We study this system to describe the contributions of individual players in this system and how they interact biochemically.

Research Opportunities: To find out about student-researcher positions in my lab please contact me.

Selected Publications (*indicates student authors)

Peterson, BF, and Scharf, ME. 2016. Metatranscriptome analysis reveals bacterial symbiont contributions to lower termite physiology and potential immune functions. BMC Genomics 17:772.

Peterson, BF, and Scharf, ME. 2016.  Lower Termite Associations with Microbes: Synergy, Protection, and Interplay. Frontiers in Microbiology. 7:422.

Peterson, BF, Stewart, HL*, and Scharf, ME, 2015. Quantifying symbiotic contributions to lower termite digestion using antimicrobial compounds. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 59: 80-88.

Sen, R, Raychoudhury, R, Cai, Y, Sun, Y, Ulrike-Lietze, V, Peterson, BF, Scharf, ME, and Boucias, DG. 2015. Molecular signatures of nicotinoid-pathogen synergy in the termite gut. PLOS ONE 10: e0123391.

For a complete list of publications: Google Scholar Profile

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