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Ecology and Conservation

Dr Mark Austin Hanson

Dr Mark Austin Hanson

Research Associate


 Stella Turk Building B046-033


University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


I am a Swiss NSF Mobility Research Fellow at the University of Exeter.

Google Scholar / Personal Webpage 

Mastodon: / Twitter: @HansonM90

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Research interests

I am interested in how the immune system evolves to defend against different pathogens. This blossomed in my Masters degree with Steve Perlman at the University of Victoria. My thesis work in Bruno Lemaitre’s lab at EPFL Switzerland overturned a decades-old paradigm on the role of “antimicrobial peptides” in defence. Antimicrobial peptides are exactly what they sound like: they’re host-encoded antibiotic genes. These immune effectors are regulated by core signalling pathways common to all animals. This was only made possible with the advent of CRISPR gene editing and the power of Drosophila genetics. We made flies carrying mutations for 14 genes from seven gene families, both individually and all combined together. With those flies, the first animal model lacking most of its antimicrobial peptide genes, we could test the importance of AMPs in live animals from a genetic perspective. That overturned a lot of the assumptions of the field, as we realised the many, many AMPs produced by organisms weren’t just this generalist antibiotic cocktail, but rather, we found evidence that individual genes were tailored to fight specific pathogens.

For my post-doctoral work, I’m taking a step back. We regularly assume that conservation of immune pathway genes equals conservation of the flow of information from the top to the bottom of those signalling pathways. Basically, if all the same genes are there, we assume that the hierarchy and signalling structure is also the same. My work in the Longdon lab is going to test that assumption. Stay tuned to my Twitter, Mastodon, or Google Scholar profile to see up-to-date work!

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Journal articles

Hanson MA, Lemaitre B (2023). Antimicrobial peptides do not directly contribute to aging in <i>Drosophila</i>, but improve lifespan by preventing dysbiosis. DISEASE MODELS & MECHANISMS, 16(4).  Author URL.
Hanson MA, Grollmus L, Lemaitre B (2023). Ecology-relevant bacteria drive the evolution of host antimicrobial peptides in. <i>Drosophila</i>. Science, 381(6655). Abstract.
Hanson MA, Kondo S, Lemaitre B (2022). <i>Drosophila</i> immunity: the <i>Drosocin</i> gene encodes two host defence peptides with pathogen-specific roles. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 289(1977).  Author URL.
Carboni AL, Hanson MA, Lindsay SA, Wasserman SA, Lemaitre B (2022). Cecropins contribute to <i>Drosophila</i> host defense against a subset of fungal and Gram-negative bacterial infection. GENETICS, 220(1).  Author URL.
Hanson M, Lemaitre B (2022). Repeated truncation of a modular antimicrobial peptide gene for neural context. PLOS GENETICS, 18(6).  Author URL.
Marra A, Hanson MA, Kondo S, Erkosar B, Lemaitre B (2021). <i>Drosophila</i>. Antimicrobial Peptides and Lysozymes Regulate Gut Microbiota Composition and Abundance. mBio, 12(4). Abstract.
Hanson MA, Cohen LB, Marra A, Iatsenko I, Wasserman SA, Lemaitre B (2021). The <i>Drosophila Baramicin</i> polypeptide gene protects against fungal infection. PLOS PATHOGENS, 17(8).  Author URL.
Hanson MA, Lemaitre B (2020). New insights on <i>Drosophila</i> antimicrobial peptide function in host defense and beyond. CURRENT OPINION IN IMMUNOLOGY, 62, 22-30.  Author URL.
Hanson MA, Dostálová A, Ceroni C, Poidevin M, Kondo S, Lemaître B (2019). Correction: Synergy and remarkable specificity of antimicrobial peptides in vivo using a systematic knockout approach. eLife, 8
Hanson MA, Lemaitre B, Unckless RL (2019). Dynamic Evolution of Antimicrobial Peptides Underscores Trade-Offs Between Immunity and Ecological Fitness. FRONTIERS IN IMMUNOLOGY, 10  Author URL.
Dudzic JP, Hanson MA, Iatsenko I, Kondo S, Lemaitre B (2019). More Than Black or White: Melanization and Toll Share Regulatory Serine Proteases in <i>Drosophila</i>. CELL REPORTS, 27(4), 1050-+.  Author URL.
Hanson MA, Dostalova A, Ceroni C, Poidevin M, Kondo S, Lemaitre B (2019). Synergy and remarkable specificity of antimicrobial peptides in vivo using a systematic knockout approach. ELIFE, 8  Author URL.
Keais GL, Hanson MA, Gowen BE, Perlman SJ (2017). X chromosome drive in a widespread Palearctic woodland fly, <i>Drosophila testacea</i>. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 30(6), 1185-1194. Abstract.
Hanson MA, Hamilton PT, Perlman SJ (2016). Immune genes and divergent antimicrobial peptides in flies of the subgenus Drosophila. BMC EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, 16  Author URL.

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