Anne-Fleur Brand » Members

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Anne-Fleur Brand

PhD Candidate Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyDepartment of Biology
Work address Department of Biology Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim 7491 Norway Website: NTNU employee page Website: NTNU Coast Impact project
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PhD project title:

Investigating the combined influence of pollution and infectious diseases on shorebirds that migrate along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway.

PhD project description:

Pollutant exposure has been linked to immunosuppression and disease outbreaks in various wildlife species. Yet, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in pollutant-induced immunomodulation remains limited.

Recently, microRNAs have been identified as key regulators of the immune response and important determinants of disease outcomes. MicroRNAs are a class of small noncoding RNAs that bind specific mRNA transcripts (from the host cell as well as from viruses) and prevent their translation into proteins. Alterations in microRNA expression have been found after exposure to various pollutants and pathogens (e.g. influenza virus). Recent in vitro studies have demonstrated that pollutants deregulate microRNA pathways involved in antiviral responses. MicroRNAs might therefore be a mechanistic link in our understanding of pollutant-induced immunomodulation. The presence and stability of microRNAs in blood makes them potentially interesting biomarkers of pollution-induced disease outcomes.

As part of the COAST IMPACT project, we study the potential of microRNAs as biomarkers of pollution exposure and disease in migratory shorebirds. The identification of specific microRNA profiles associated with infectious disease and/or pollution exposure could (i) elucidate the molecular mechanisms inducing pollutant-induced immunomodulation, and (ii) facilitate the assessment of pollution exposure effects in free-living birds of conservation concern.

Start date: August 2020
Planned submission date: August 2024


Veerle Jaspers (NTNU, Trondheim, Norway)
Courtney Waugh (NORD University, Bodø, Norway)
Marcel Klaassen (Deakin University, Victoria, Australia)

Scientific publications:

  1. Medici EP, Fernandes-Santos RC, Testa-José C, Brand AF (2021). Lowland tapir exposure to pesticides and heavy metals in the Brazilian Cerrado. Wildlife Research 48 (5), 393-403.
  2. Brand AF, Hynes J, Williams RJ, Walker L, Santos Pereira MG, Lawlor AJ, Shore RF & Chadwick EA (2020). Biological and anthropogenic predictors of metal concentration in the Eurasian otter, a sentinel of freshwater ecosystems. Environmental Pollution 266, 115280.
  3. Flint M, Brand AF, Bell IP, Hof C (2019). Monitoring the health of green turtles in Northern Queensland post catastrophic events. Science of the Total Environment 660, 586–592.

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