Todd Schlenketodd

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Portland, OR 97202

Phone: 503-517-7644
Office: B124
Research Lab: B136

Before joining the Reed Biology faculty Todd received his B.A. in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Zoology from UT Austin.  He was a postdoc at
UC Davis and an NIH-NRSA postdoctoral fellow at Cornell Universit and spent 5 years on the faculty at Emory University. 

Reseach Interests: The lab studies Drosophila response to parasitic wasp attackinfection. We address thegenetic basis, the molecular mechanisms and the co-evolutionary history of this host parasite interaction. More recently we have also begun to study this topic from a behavioral angle including ecological and evolutionary implications
(see below for more detail)

(Click here for one of our wasp attack videos.)


Teaching at Reed:

BIO342 Behavioral Genetics: We will focus on the genetic basis of behaviors, actions organisms undertake that change their relationship with their environments. Main topics will include reproductive behaviors (courtship, mate choice, pair bonding, parental care, sociality), nutrient acquisition behaviors (search images, learning and memory, competition), and protective behaviors (warning signals, medication, avoidance). We will study these behaviors with an integrated approach that emphasizes not only the ecological and evolutionary forces that maintain the behaviors, but also the neurological and genetic mechanisms that underlie them. (lecture/lab 1.0 units, Fall term)

BIO431 Ecological Immunology We will discuss primary literature that explores why organisms haven't evolved optimum immune responses. Major factors to consider include the constant adaptation of parasite virulence strategies, as well as ecological and evolutionary tradeoffs between immunity and other components of host fitness. (seminar 0.5 units, Spring term)

Research Interests

Drosophila's cellular immune response against parasitic wasps
Parasitic wasps are natural parasites of Drosophila that induce a complex innate cellular immune response termed melanotic encapsulation. Innate immunity includes a humoral response and a cellular response.  While the humoral response has been intensely studied, the genes underlying the cellular innate immune response are poorly characterized.  Therefore, the Drosophila immune flyresponse to parasitic wasps provides an excellent system in which to identify candidate cellular immunity genes using transcriptomic and genetic screening approaches. Our lab then functionally characterizes those candidate genes at the molecular level and investigates their phenotypic effects at physiological and behavioral levels.

Our lab has identified three behavioral immune mechanisms flies use to prevent wasp infection or to cure themselves once infected.
Infected fly larvae therapeutically medicate themselves by consuming plants that the wasps are sensitive to.brain The adult flies see wasps in the area, they prophylactically medicate offspring by laying their eggs in substrates with high alcohol concentrations that kill wasp larvae but not fly larvae. Adult flies also regulate egg production in the presence of wasps. Our lab studies the neural control of these behavioral changes.

Our lab also studies long-term patterns of immune system evolution. 
We have shown that it is Drosophila immune signaling proteinscollecting, not recognition or attack proteins, that rapidly evolve (Schlenke and Begun 2003).  These "weak links" in the Drosophila immune system are exploited by pathogens which activly suppress host immunity rather than by simply evading detection. We also exploit the fruitfly-wasp interaction to answer general questions about the evolution and ecology of host-pathogen interactions. 


Recent publications

  • Insights from natural host-parasite interactions: The Drosophila model
    Keebaugh ES, Schlenke TA
    Developmental and Comparative Immunology, in press (2013)

  • A role for nematocytes in the cellular immune response of the Drosophilid Zaprionus indianus
    Kacsoh BZ, Bozler J, Schlenke TA
    Parasitology, in press (2013)

  • Parasitoid wasp venom SERCA regulates Drosophila calcium levels and inhibits cellular immunity
    Mortimer NT, Goecks J, Kacsoh BZ, Mobley JA, Bowersock GJ, Taylor J, Schlenke TA
    PNAS 110, 9427- 9432 (2013)

  • Integrative approach reveals composition of endoparasitoid wasp venoms
    Goecks J, Mortimer NT, Mobley JA, Bowersock GJ, Taylor J, Schlenke TA
    PLoS One 8, e64125 (2013)

  • Fruit flies medicate offspring after seeing parasites
    Kacsoh BZ, Lynch ZR, Mortimer NT, Schlenke TA
    Science 339, 947-950 (2013)

  • Mgat1-dependent N-glycosylation of membrane components primes Drosophila melanogaster blood cells for the
    cellular encapsulation response
    Mortimer NT, Kacsoh BZ, Keebaugh ES, Schlenke TA
    PLoS Pathogens 8, e1002819 (2012)

  • High hemocyte load is associated with increased resistance against parasitoids in Drosophila suzukii, a relative of D. melanogaster
    Kacsoh BZ, Schlenke TA
    PLoS One 7, e34721 (2012)

  • Alcohol consumption as self-medication against blood-borne parasites in the fruit fly
    Milan NF, Kacsoh BZ, Schlenke TA
    Current Biology 22, 488-493 (2012)