I am originally from Lithuania and I did my undergraduate degree at Imperial College London. I’m interested in all things small, particularly viruses. Currently I am working on the genome structure of Influenza virus. I am interested in learning and applying various high-throughput sequencing methods in my research and also understanding the bioinformatics behind them. I enjoy communicating science to different audiences. I am a member of the Oxford branch of the British Science Association, where we organize science talks in pubs and various other science engagement activities. I also write a lot about research both in my personal blog (www.questiongene.com), as well as for student newspapers.
SAMHD1 is a protein that was identified as a human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) restriction factor. It prevents HIV-1 replication by degrading the intracellular pool of dNTPs, which the virus requires for reverse transcription, by virtue of its deoxynucleoside triphosphohydrolase (dNTPase) activity. Interestingly, SAMHD1 is highly conserved, suggesting that it has evolutionarily ancestral functions in addition to HIV-1 restriction. SAMHD1 mutations were shown to cause Aicardi Goutières syndrome (AGS), a rare auto-inflammatory disease, and were also associated with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). We fortuitously observed that Samhd1-/- cells die upon addition of deoxynucleosides (dNs) to the culture medium. dNs are taken up by cells and are converted into dNTPs. We therefore hypothesize that SAMHD1 plays a role in regulating general nucleotide metabolism and/or nucleotide unbalances. My project has focussed on characterizing the dN-induced cell death phenomenon in Samhd1-/- cells and on trying to determine the protective role of SAMHD1. This observation may lead to a better understanding of SAMHD1’s functions and may provide new insights for the therapy of diseases such as AGS and CLL where SAMHD1 is mutated. Current supervisor: Jan Rehwinkel. Rotation supervisors: Kevin Maloy, Richard Cornall and Helen McShane.
I studied Biochemistry and Cell Biology in Bremen, Germany, for my undergraduate degree and after a short excursion into plant sciences for a summer internship decided that immunology was my area of science. For the rotations I went to the labs of Paul Klenerman, Simon Davis, and Vincenzo Cerundolo and am now jointly supervised by Paul Klenerman, Mariolina Salio, and Vincenzo Cerundolo. I am particularly interested in antigen presentation and its regulation – especially when it comes to non-classical antigens. In my DPhil I am exploring the presentation of bacterial small molecule antigens to MAIT cells. When I’m not in the lab, I like to help inspiring future generations of scientists as part of Oxford Hands-On Science, a public engagement initiative which I helped start together with Beatrice and Meg.
Before joining the programme I did my BSc in Biology at the University of Bath with a placement year. I spent my placement year in lab at the University of Georgia, GA, USA. During that year I became interested in the molecular biology of pathogens – specifically filarial nematodes. This inspired me to pursue a PhD and here I am! My current research interests lie in vector-parasite interactions of kinetoplastid parasites such as Trypanosoma sp. and Leishmania sp. and their insect vectors (tsetse and sand flies etc.). At the moment I am working with D. melanogaster and its natural kinetoplastid H. megaseliae to model these interactions. Outside the lab I have been involved my St. Edmund Hall’s MCR committee and the football team. PhD supervisors: Petros Ligoxygakis, Keith Gull, Helen Farr. Rotations: Eva Gluenz (Leishmania cell biology), Petros Ligoxygakis (Drosophila immunity) and Sarah Gilbert (Adenoviral vectored vaccines).
I am conducting my DPhil project in Nicole Zitzmann’s group, investigating the antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects of iminosugars, with a focus on dengue infection. I also collaborate with the Virology and Pathogenesis group at Public Health England, to evaluate further antiviral applications for iminosugars. In addition to my current group, I undertook rotations with Fiona Powrie, on how short chain fatty acids affect macrophage differentiation, and Sarah Rowland-Jones, on the role of TRIM22 in HIV-2 infection. Prior to the IITM programme, I studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. During this time I completed a project with Jane Goodall on how Chlamydia trachomatis interacts with endoplasmic reticulum stress responses, and Thierry Roger, on sirtuin responses to pathogen associated molecular patterns, as part of the UNIL Summer Undergraduate Research Programme. Outside the lab, I founded Oxford Hands-On Science (OxHOS), a public engagement society, and I write and edit for ‘Phenotype’.