Sistermans, Tom

Tom Sistermans
PhD Student

Curriculum Vitae


2019 - current Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Working title: “Parasite interference in regulation of host gene expression.”

2016 - 2019





Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – Evolutionary Ecology
Thesis 1: “Whole Genome Duplications in Hexapods and their role in hexapod evolution.”Thesis 2: “Secondary structures in legume enod40: their connection to rhizobium symbiosis and transposition of domain 4.”
Literature thesis: “Canalization in evolutionary genetics: a review of its progress over the past twenty years.”
2013 - 2016 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – Biology
Thesis: “The influence of DNA methylation on lipogenesis in Nasonia vitripennis”

Research interests

With my background in evolutionary biology, genomics and ecology I’m interested in how species interact and how these interactions evolve on a molecular level. Sometimes a system can evolve endlessly complex with multiple species involved. Some of the best examples of these complex systems can be found in the interaction between parasites and hosts. Some parasites have multiple hosts over multiple stages of life and therefore need to adapt to both hosts and need to ensure that they are transmitted to different hosts. With that, they evolve fascinating ways of manipulating their hosts to ensure transmission to the next.

My PhD focusses on one of these interactions. The tapeworm Anomotaenia brevis is a parasite on both the ant species Temnothorax nylanderi and woodpeckers. When an ant is infected by the tapeworm, its phenotype is completely altered. Infected ants have a lighter colour, they live longer, they receive more care from nestmates and they have a reduced flight reaction to danger. These characteristics may increase the chance that these ants are eventually eaten by a woodpecker so that the parasites can complete their life cycles. Not all these characteristics are completely unique and can be found within the ant hierarchy. Therefore we think that the parasite uses the ant’s own gene expression in its benefit. My task is to investigate these gene regulatory mechanisms and how the parasite can (in)activate ant genes.