Dr Mara Lawniczak | Group Leader

Lawniczak, Mara

Mara is an evolutionary geneticist interested in understanding what makes some mosquitoes better than others at transmitting malaria, and what makes some parasites better at getting transmitted. She also likes trying out any new technology that enhances our understanding of genomes.

Malaria still kills hundreds of thousands of children every year in Africa. I’m interested in all aspects of what makes an Anopheles female mosquito such an effective vector of this deadly parasite, from her genotype to her life history. Likewise, I'm interested in how parasites behave in the human host and in the mosquito to increase their chances of transmission.

We carry out large scale whole genome sequencing projects on mosquitoes, and we are focused on a deeper understanding of diversity in African vectors in particular. We lead the Anopheles funestus population genomics project, partnered with many scientists in Africa, to evaluate diversity and selection in this important but often overlooked species. This is one of many daughter projects of the MalariaGEN Vector Observatory, a major effort at Sanger to do population genomics for all major vectors.

Many species of Anopheles are very difficult to keep as colonies or to inbreed and these facts cause all sorts of problems for building good assemblies using current technology. Therefore, we are also leading a project to use wild caught individuals and their broods to assemble high quality reference genomes from multiple major and secondary vectors.This is in collaboration with Richard Durbin at Cambridge and Dan Neafsey at Harvard/Broad.

Our other major area of research is around using single cell RNA sequencing to investigate transmission dynamics in Plasmodium. We created the Malaria Cell Atlas, a data resource that will continue to grow as we expand our efforts to examine indivdiual parasite transcriptomes in the context of both lab and natural infections.

All areas of our research are aimed at gaining a deep evolutionary understanding of these interesting yet deadly organisms, and ultimately our research and the data we generate will help to implement new methods of control, including gene drive and transmission blocking strategies that aim to stop malaria.

Publications

  • Single-cell RNA-seq reveals hidden transcriptional variation in malaria parasites.

    Reid AJ, Talman AM, Bennett HM, Gomes AR, Sanders MJ et al.

    eLife 2018;7

  • Genetic diversity of the African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae.

    Anopheles gambiae 1000 Genomes Consortium, Data analysis group, Partner working group, Sample collections—Angola:, Burkina Faso: et al.

    Nature 2017;552;7683;96-100

  • Mosquito genomics. Extensive introgression in a malaria vector species complex revealed by phylogenomics.

    Fontaine MC, Pease JB, Steele A, Waterhouse RM, Neafsey DE et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2015;347;6217;1258524

  • Mosquito genomics. Highly evolvable malaria vectors: the genomes of 16 Anopheles mosquitoes.

    Neafsey DE, Waterhouse RM, Abai MR, Aganezov SS, Alekseyev MA et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2015;347;6217;1258522

  • Single-cell RNA-seq reveals hidden transcriptional variation in malaria parasites.

    Reid AJ, Talman AM, Bennett HM, Gomes AR, Sanders MJ et al.

    eLife 2018;7

  • Cross-Species Y Chromosome Function Between Malaria Vectors of the <i>Anopheles gambiae</i> Species Complex.

    Bernardini F, Galizi R, Wunderlich M, Taxiarchi C, Kranjc N et al.

    Genetics 2017;207;2;729-740

  • A computational lens for sexual-stage transmission, reproduction, fitness and kinetics in Plasmodium falciparum.

    Lawniczak MK and Eckhoff PA

    Malaria journal 2016;15;1;487

  • Mosquito genomics. Extensive introgression in a malaria vector species complex revealed by phylogenomics.

    Fontaine MC, Pease JB, Steele A, Waterhouse RM, Neafsey DE et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2015;347;6217;1258524

  • Mosquito genomics. Highly evolvable malaria vectors: the genomes of 16 Anopheles mosquitoes.

    Neafsey DE, Waterhouse RM, Abai MR, Aganezov SS, Alekseyev MA et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2015;347;6217;1258522

  • Proteomic analysis of the Plasmodium male gamete reveals the key role for glycolysis in flagellar motility.

    Talman AM, Prieto JH, Marques S, Ubaida-Mohien C, Lawniczak M et al.

    Malaria journal 2014;13;315

  • Genetic dissection of Anopheles gambiae gut epithelial responses to Serratia marcescens.

    Stathopoulos S, Neafsey DE, Lawniczak MK, Muskavitch MA and Christophides GK

    PLoS pathogens 2014;10;3;e1003897

  • Adaptive divergence between incipient species of Anopheles gambiae increases resistance to Plasmodium.

    White BJ, Lawniczak MK, Cheng C, Coulibaly MB, Wilson MD et al.

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011;108;1;244-9

  • SNP genotyping defines complex gene-flow boundaries among African malaria vector mosquitoes.

    Neafsey DE, Lawniczak MKN, Park DJ, Redmond SN, Coulibaly MB et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2010;330;6003;514-517

  • Widespread divergence between incipient Anopheles gambiae species revealed by whole genome sequences.

    Lawniczak MK, Emrich SJ, Holloway AK, Regier AP, Olson M et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2010;330;6003;512-4

  • Adaptive gene expression divergence inferred from population genomics.

    Holloway AK, Lawniczak MK, Mezey JG, Begun DJ and Jones CD

    PLoS genetics 2007;3;10;2007-13

  • Molecular population genetics of female-expressed mating-induced serine proteases in Drosophila melanogaster.

    Lawniczak MK and Begun DJ

    Molecular biology and evolution 2007;24;9;1944-51

  • A QTL analysis of female variation contributing to refractoriness and sperm competition in Drosophila melanogaster.

    Lawniczak MK and Begun DJ

    Genetical research 2005;86;2;107-14

  • A genome-wide analysis of courting and mating responses in Drosophila melanogaster females.

    Lawniczak MK and Begun DJ

    Genome / National Research Council Canada = Génome / Conseil national de recherches Canada 2004;47;5;900-10

Lawniczak, Mara
Mara's Timeline
2014

Joined the Sanger

2012

Awarded an MRC Career Development Award

2007

Began postdoc at Imperial College London (with Fotis Kafatos and George Christophides)

2004

PhD in Population Biology from UCDavis (with David Begun)