Ben completed his Diplom in Summer 2009 in the laboratory of Professor Jonathan Howard, Institute of Genetics, University of Cologne.
Since October 2009 he has been a member of the IGS DHD programm, where he continues his work in Professor Howards group.

Project description

"Massive polymorphism of the IRG resistance mechanism in the house mouse and its relevance to Toxoplasma gondii infection"

When laboratory mice are challenged with the obligate intracellular protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, the outcome of infection largely depends on the genotype of the parasite. Only one viable parasite of a virulent strain of T. gondii will kill a lab mouse within 15 days, whilst the lethal dose dose of an avirulent strain is in the order of several magnitudes higher. Resistance to T. gondii is closely linked to a certain protein family in mice - the immunity-related GTPases (IRGs) - which protect lab mice against avirulent T. gondii, but fail with respect to virulent strains.

Recently, highly polymorphic IRG proteins have been identified in wild-derived house mice, and preliminary results suggest that the IRG resistance system in those mice if effective even against virulent strains of T. gondii. In my PhD project I investigate the significance of polymorphic IRG proteins in wild house mice with respect to parasite resistance, and try to understand whether the emergence of polymorphic IRGs is the result of an arms race between T. gondii virulence factors and the IRG resistance system.