Jamie Voyles: The secrets of snail slime

Title

Secrets of Snail Slime

Mentor

Jamie Voyles

Department

Biology

Biosketch

The Voyles lab studies emerging infectious diseases and conservation of wildlife. We take a "One Health" perspective, recognizing that human, plant, animal and ecosystem health are inextricably connected. Because disease is a dynamic interaction between hosts, pathogens, and their shared environments, our research bridges many different scientific fields, ranging from microbial biology and organismal physiology to evolutionary biology and ecology. We use a very wide variety of techniques (both in the laboratory and in the field) to pursue key questions in the study of infectious disease. The ability to work across multiple levels of biological organization, and implement many different techniques, allows us to actively pursue exciting questions in disease ecology and investigate how emerging disease is shaping our natural world.

Project Overview

Snails use their mucus or "snail slime" for a variety of reasons, including for locomotion and immune defenses against pathogens. For example, the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens is a pathogen that is lethal to the common land snail (Cornu aspersum), but snail slime may act as an antimicrobial secretion and protect snails against infection. Generally, the immunology of snails is an understudied area of research but their slime may be an important untapped resource for antimicrobials. This study will focus on understanding the antimicrobial properties of snail slime by testing it against P. fluorescens under different environmental conditions. The student involved in this research will be working with both the snails (e.g., animal husbandry) as well as with the bacterium (i.e., using microbiological techniques). Unraveling the antibacterial properties of snail slime may provide key insights into the immune systems of invertebrates, reveal novel antimicrobial substances, and may facilitate snail conservation.