Survey of Nematodes that Infect Slugs & Snails in California

We recently surveyed 28 counties in California for nematodes that infect slugs and snails. This was a collaborative effort with Rory Mc Donnell’s lab at Oregon State University. The work was lead by Jake Schurkman and Irma Tandingan De Ley in the Dillman lab. This survey will help us understand the distribution of these nematodes and California and will be used to determine whether these nematodes could be sold and distributed for use in agriculture in the US.

New nematode parasite of tarantulas


A few years ago a tarantula breeder asked for our help in diagnosing an infection occurring in her tarantulas. This week the results of our study describing Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi, a newly described nematode parasite of tarantulas was published. Congratulations to Jake Schurkman, Kyle Anesko,  Irma Tandingan De Ley, and Joaquin Abolafia, for their great work on this nematode!

Study on Parasitic Nematode FAR Proteins published

Sophia’s study on FAR proteins modulating host immunity was published in PLoS Pathogens. This was a collaborative effort with the University of Victoria, UC San Diego, and Naoki Yamanaka’s lab here at UCR. This represents the first paper that we have published on a specific nematode protein effector. It’s also the first published collaboration with Naoki Yamanaka, Omar Akbari, and Marty Boulanger. Hopefully more to come!

Sophia Parks Honored as Stanford Propel Scholar

Graduate student Sophia Parks has accepted a position as a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Manuel Amieva’s lab at Stanford University. In addition, she was selected to be one of the inaugural Propel Scholars, a newly formed Postdoctoral Scholar program at Stanford University’s School of Medicine (https://propel.stanford.edu/scholars/). Sophia begins her postdoctoral appointment in January. 

Jumping, Effectors, and Gastropods

S. carpocapsae jumping. From Dillman et al., 2021.

Like many labs, we were effectively shutdown for 3 full months in 2020 and have gradually been resuming full research activity as restrictions have decreased. So far this year, we published our first study of nematode effectors, where Sophia Parks and colleagues have illustrated the immunosuppressive potential of nematode FAR proteins. Jake Schurkman published an excellent review of EPN-Gastropod interactions. And Adler Dillman managed to publish data obtained in his graduate studies showing that EPNs jump with greater velocity and acceleration than previously reported. The high-speed videos of nematode jumping have finally been published.

We look forward to the characterization of many more nematode effectors, with studies of sPLA2 and ShKT-domain-containing proteins in the pipeline.

Outstanding Investigator Award

Dr. Dillman has been awarded an Outstanding Investigator Award (R35) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This represents the first five-year award granted to the Dillman lab and will allow the lab increased flexibility in pursuing health-related research. The $1.8 million was awarded in support of the overall research program of the lab rather than a specific project. With the support the lab will move forward in studying host-parasite interactions and how nematode venom influences host biology.

Genes and Neurons Involved in C. elegans’ Response to Prenol

Dr. Tiffany Baiocchi, a former graduate student that is now an assistant professor at Lassen County Community College, just published the final chapter of her doctoral thesis in GENETICS. The new paper represents a Herculean effort by Tiffany and many of the undergraduates she trained. Six of her trainees share authorship on the paper. Paul Sternberg and members of his lab at Caltech were also instrumental in completing essential experiments for this project. This project was a follow-up on Tiffany’s previous work identifying prenol as an odor associated with EPN-infected insects. Her latest paper explores the neurons and genetic pathways involved in the detection and response to prenol by C. elegans. Congratulations Tiffany and all those involved!