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Biology Professor Yonas Tekle Receives $390,234 NIH Grant

August 2020

Yonas Tekle, Ph.D. Spelman College
The National Institutes of Health has awarded Spelman College biology professor Yonas Tekle, Ph.D. a $390,234 grant to work with student researchers to further explore his research involving reproductive behavior in microbial amoeboids, a research program pioneered at Spelman.

The three-year grant is a renewal of a previous successful NIH grant Dr. Tekle received in 2015 in the amount of $335,846. Dr. Tekle has published seven research articles of which three publications included Spelman undergraduate coauthors resulting from projects of the initial grant. In one of their publications, Dr. Tekle and his students discovered a new species and named the new species after the mascot of Spelman College, Jaguars. The new species is characterized by crystal spots on its cellular surface that is reminiscent of the rosetted skin spots in Jaguars.

The current grant will fund to continue his research project, “Unraveling The Mechanism Of Cryptic Sexual Cycle Development In Amoebae Using Comparative Genomics And Cytology”. The proposed research aims to unravel the cytological and genetic evidence underlying the cryptic sexual life cycle of two amoeboids: Cochliopodium and Acanthamoeba.

Sexual reproduction is highly beneficial in eukaryotes by enabling them to increase genetic diversity, fitness and virulence as in pathogenic eukaryotes. However, sexuality in most microbial eukaryotes is poorly understood due to their diverse and complex life cycle. The project will use a species original described at Spelman college by undergraduates as a main tool to answer many fundamental questions in reproductive behavior of microbial eukaryotes.

The grant also affords Spelman students the opportunity to become involved in new cutting-edge research projects including whole genome sequencing and advanced cytological techniques in the same rigor and sophistication to those found in graduate school.

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