UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Ablesh Gautam, BVSc&AH, MS

Ablesh Gautam

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Ablesh Gautam

Ablesh Gautam

Name: Ablesh Gautam, MS

From: India

Degrees and institute where received: BVSc & AH from Jawahar Lal Nehru Agricultural University, Jabalpur, India
MS, Microbiology, from North Dakota State University

Ablesh Gautam chose to come to the University of Kentucky (UK) Gluck Equine Research Center to further her education when the opportunity arose to work in the field of infectious diseases.

"I really wanted to work on infectious diseases, specifically at the molecular level, and while I was looking for PhD opportunities at the University of Kentucky, I found Dr. Dan Howe's (PhD, professor and molecular parasitologist at the Gluck Center) lab working on equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), perfectly matching to my research interests."

When Gautam discussed with Howe her interest in his work, he agreed to be her PhD advisor. Gautam's research focus is on the surface antigen (SnSAG) gene family in the protozoan parasite Sarcocystis neurona. The protozoan is the most common cause of EPM in horses in America. The single celled parasite can, after gaining access to the central nervous system, damage any region of the brain and/or spinal cord to various degrees.

S. neurona has a fairly complex life cycle that progresses through multiple developmental stages differing morphologically and molecularly. The surface of the S. neurona merozoite is covered by multiple related proteins, which are similar to the surface antigen (SAG) gene family of Toxoplasma gondii, Gautam said.

"My studies also include examining the expression of these proteins in different life cycle stages and their role in host-parasite interactions," she said. "Specifically, I am bioinformatically identifying new SnSAGs in the draft sequence of the S. neurona genome. Furthermore, I am characterizing SnSAGs thus identified, as well as SnSAGs identified previously in our lab, in detail."

As a side project, Gautam is studying the process of glycosylation exhibited by different proteins of S. neurona. The information acquired from her work will, according to Gautam, help to better comprehend the parasite, its complex life cycle stages, and the host-parasite relationship.

"This will further be useful for developing better diagnostics and preventive and therapeutic measures," Gautam said.

Gautam plans to continue working on infectious diseases at the molecular level, and after earning her PhD she hopes to complete postdoctoral training.

Shaila Sigsgaard is a contributing writer for the Bluegrass Equine Digest.

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