Lawniczak Group | Evolutionary genetics

Lawniczak Group | Evolutionary genetics

Lawniczak Group

arthur-card-idea3.pngdrawn by Petra Korlevic

Our Research and Approach

We carry out our research here at Sanger and at our fieldsites in Kenya and Mali. We are working to answer the following questions using a variety of genomic tools from whole genome sequencing to single cell RNAseq.

Theme: Mosquito Vector Population Genomics

Species diversity in Anopheles: 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 are building simple amplicon panels that can be used for any Anopheline to diagnose species, identify geographic origin, and determine if the mosquito is positive for Plasmodium parasites and if so, which species.

Anopheles funestus population genomics: We also lead the Anopheles funestus population genomics project to evaluate diversity and selection in this major malaria vector. This is collaboration with many scientists across Africa. In general, we use the whole genome sequence data we generate to explore population structure, understand selection, and improve the chances for gene drive success in the face of the vast amount of genetic diversity that segregates within African Anopheles species.

Project Neandersquito: To understand how populations have changed over time, we are generating whole genome sequence data from museum specimens of mosquitoes collected over the past century. We do this in a non-destructive way (otherwise curators would never let us touch their collections!).

High quality reference genomes: A good reference genome unlocks huge potential towards the study of an organism, and technology now makes this possible using single small insects. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are generating high quality reference genomes for understudied Anopheles vector species around the world using long-read and long-range sequencing technologies. We are also heavily involved in the Darwin Tree of Life Project, which aims to generate reference genomes for all 60,000 or so British eukaryotic species in the next decade.

Theme: Transmission biology of Plasmodium falciparum

Malaria Cell Atlas: We have pioneered the application of single cell transcriptional approaches to investigate individual Plasmodium parasites. We have created the Malaria Cell Atlas, which is freely available and interactive and displays how any gene is expressed at any point across the entire life cycle of parasites. We are also able to use the nucleotide variants from the transcriptional data to assign genetic identity to each cell, and thereby we can deconvolve natural mixed infections for the first time. Our next project is to incorporate wild parasites from P. falciparum, P. malariae, and P. ovale into our atlas.

Transmission Dynamics:  We are using single cell RNAseq to to study the behavior of P. falciparum parasites from natural infections. How do malaria parasites behave inside of the human host to enhance their probability of transmission? In particular, using single cell approaches, we will interrogate the relationship of the asexual to sexual parasites in a given infection (are all asexual parasites contributing to the transmission pool?), and we will study whether parasites mate non-randomly inside the mosquito. This project is newly funded by the Medical Research Council and we will begin work in Mali at end of 2019.

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.

People

Dr Mara Lawniczak
Group Leader

Mara Lawniczak is an evolutionary geneticist with a long-standing interest in speciation and biodiversity, coupled with a desire to do science that has positive impacts on global health. She strives to build genomic resources that deliver impact in malaria control while also enhancing our understanding of evolution.

Show Alumni

Alumni

Arthur Talman (PDF), Krzysztof Kozak (PDF), Charles Mulamba (Staff Scientist), Katie Love (ARA)

Key Projects, Collaborations, Tools & Data

We are building the Malaria Cell Atlas and we are key partners in the MalariaGEN 1000 Anopheles genomes project and the MalariaGEN Vector Observatory.

Programmes, Associate Research Programmes and Facilities

Partners and Funders

We are funded by the MRC and Wellcome.
Internal Partners
External Partners and Funders

Publications

  • The Malaria Cell Atlas: Single parasite transcriptomes across the complete Plasmodium life cycle.

    Howick VM, Russell AJC, Andrews T, Heaton H, Reid AJ et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2019;365;6455

  • A High-Quality De novo Genome Assembly from a Single Mosquito Using PacBio Sequencing.

    Kingan SB, Heaton H, Cudini J, Lambert CC, Baybayan P et al.

    Genes 2019;10;1

  • 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

  • The male mosquito contribution towards malaria transmission: Mating influences the Anopheles female midgut transcriptome and increases female susceptibility to human malaria parasites.

    Dahalan FA, Churcher TS, Windbichler N and Lawniczak MKN

    PLoS pathogens 2019;15;11;e1008063

  • The Malaria Cell Atlas: Single parasite transcriptomes across the complete Plasmodium life cycle.

    Howick VM, Russell AJC, Andrews T, Heaton H, Reid AJ et al.

    Science (New York, N.Y.) 2019;365;6455

  • Whole-genome sequencing reveals high complexity of copy number variation at insecticide resistance loci in malaria mosquitoes.

    Lucas ER, Miles A, Harding NJ, Clarkson CS, Lawniczak MKN et al.

    Genome research 2019;29;8;1250-1261

  • A High-Quality De novo Genome Assembly from a Single Mosquito Using PacBio Sequencing.

    Kingan SB, Heaton H, Cudini J, Lambert CC, Baybayan P et al.

    Genes 2019;10;1

  • 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 Anopheles gambiae 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

  • A mating plug protein reduces early female remating in Drosophila melanogaster.

    Bretman A, Lawniczak MK, Boone J and Chapman T

    Journal of insect physiology 2010;56;1;107-13

  • Genomic analysis of the relationship between gene expression variation and DNA polymorphism in Drosophila simulans.

    Lawniczak MK, Holloway AK, Begun DJ and Jones CD

    Genome biology 2008;9;8;R125

  • 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

  • Mating and immunity in invertebrates.

    Lawniczak MK, Barnes AI, Linklater JR, Boone JM, Wigby S and Chapman T

    Trends in ecology & evolution 2007;22;1;48-55

  • 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 2004;47;5;900-10