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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Bryony Williams

Dr Bryony Williams

Sequencing Experimental Officer/Senior Lecturer


 Geoffrey Pope 313 (and LSI T2 09)


Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter , Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QD, UK


My research concerns the molecular evolution and comparative cell biology of eukaryotes, and particularly the adaptation of parasite cells to the intracellular environment. I am a member of the Microbes and Disease research group.


1999-2002 PhD The Natural History Museum London and University College London
1997-1998 MSc Advanced Methods in Taxonomy and Biodiversity, The Natural History Museum London and Imperial College London
1994-1997 BSc Biology, Southampton University


2017-Present Senior Lecturer, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter

2007-2017 University Research Fellow, (Royal Society) School of Biosciences, University of Exeter
2007 Human Frontier Science Foundation Short Term Fellow, Rutgers, Newark, USA
2002-2007 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia, Canada

Research group links

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Research interests

My current research concerns the biology of microsporidia. These are highly unusual fungi and obligate intracellular parasites of many different lineages of animals, including humans. Though eukaryotic, microsporidia have very small genomes and cryptic mitochondria that produce no ATP.

My past research has sought to understand the nature of reduction microsporidian genomes and mitochondria. I have studied the variability of genome architecture between different species of microsporidia and looked at the effects of genome compaction and reduction on the process of gene transcription.

As intracellular parasites, microsporidia have diverse effects on their host cells. Metabolite import and parasite development is facilitated by manipulation of the host cell cytoskeleton. For example, in many species, host mitochondria are drawn around the cell, most likely to aid the uptake of ATP directly from the host cell. I am currently trying to understand how microsporidia affect host cell function by identifying and characterizing proteins at the host-parasite interface and those secreted from the parasite cell.

Research grants

  • 2019 Horizon 2020 Innovative Training Networks (ITN)
    BR is a co-I on a large collaborative EU grant aiming at training the next generation of invertebrate pathologists. Total award €4.2 million
  • 2018 Royal Society
    Impacts of environmental factors on the growth of shrimp and virulence of important pathogens
  • 2016 NERC CASE Studentship (open competition)
    The Enterocytozoon Clade - Emergent Microsporidia in the Aquatic-Terrestrial Food Chain
  • 2012 The Royal Society
    Eukaryotic minimalism and parasitic complexity in the Microsporidia
  • 2010 NERC
    Emergent diversity of an ecologically important parasite group
  • 2010 NERC
    Emergent diversity of an ecologically important parasite group
  • 2007 The Royal Society
    Eukaryotic minimalism and parasitic complexity in the Microsporidia

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Journal articles

McLaren M, Conners R, Isupov MN, Gil-Díez P, Gambelli L, Gold VAM, Walter A, Connell SR, Williams B, Daum B, et al (2023). CryoEM reveals that ribosomes in microsporidian spores are locked in a dimeric hibernating state. Nature Microbiology, 8(10), 1834-1845. Abstract.
Bojko J, Reinke AW, Stentiford GD, Williams B, Rogers MSJ, Bass D (2022). Microsporidia: a new taxonomic, evolutionary, and ecological synthesis. Trends Parasitol, 38(8), 642-659. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bessette E, Williams B (2022). Protists in the Insect Rearing Industry: Benign Passengers or Potential Risk?. Insects, 13(5). Abstract.  Author URL.
Stentiford GD, Bass D, Williams BAP (2019). Ultimate opportunists-The emergent Enterocytozoon group Microsporidia. PLoS Pathog, 15(5).  Author URL.
Bass D, Czech L, Williams BAP, Berney C, Dunthorn M, Mahé F, Torruella G, Stentiford GD, Williams TA (2018). Clarifying the Relationships between Microsporidia and Cryptomycota. J Eukaryot Microbiol, 65(6), 773-782. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Hamilton KM, Jones MD, Bass D (2018). Group-specific environmental sequencing reveals high levels of ecological heterogeneity across the microsporidian radiation. Environ Microbiol Rep, 10(3), 328-336. Abstract.  Author URL.
Jaroenlak P, Boakye DW, Vanichviriyakit R, Williams BAP, Sritunyalucksana K, Itsathitphaisarn O (2018). Identification, characterization and heparin binding capacity of a spore-wall, virulence protein from the shrimp microsporidian, Enterocytozoon hepatopenaei (EHP). Parasites and Vectors, 11(1). Abstract.
Wiredu Boakye D, Jaroenlak P, Prachumwat A, Williams TA, Bateman KS, Itsathitphaisarn O, Sritunyalucksana K, Paszkiewicz KH, Moore KA, Stentiford GD, et al (2017). Decay of the glycolytic pathway and adaptation to intranuclear parasitism within Enterocytozoonidae microsporidia. Environmental Microbiology, 19(5), 2077-2089. Abstract.
Stentiford GD, Sritunyalucksana K, Flegel TW, Williams BAP, Withyachumnarnkul B, Itsathitphaisarn O, Bass D (2017). New Paradigms to Help Solve the Global Aquaculture Disease Crisis. PLoS Pathogens, 13(2).
Williams TA, Nakjang S, Campbell SE, Freeman MA, Eydal M, Moore K, Hirt RP, Embley TM, Williams BAP (2016). A Recent Whole-Genome Duplication Divides Populations of a Globally Distributed Microsporidian. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 33(8), 2002-2015. Abstract.
Jaroenlak P, Sanguanrut P, Williams BAP, Stentiford GD, Flegel TW, Sritunyalucksana K, Itsathitphaisarn O (2016). A nested PCR assay to avoid false positive detection of the microsporidian enterocytozoon hepatopenaei (EHP) in environmental samples in shrimp farms. PLoS ONE, 11(11). Abstract.
Stentiford GD, Becnel -JJ, Weiss LM, Keeling PJ, Didier ES, Williams B-AP, Bjornson S, Kent M-L, Freeman MA, Brown MJF, et al (2016). Microsporidia – Emergent Pathogens in the Global Food Chain. Trends in Parasitology, 32(4), 336-348.
Bateman KS, Wiredu-Boakye D, Kerr R, Williams BAP, Stentiford GD (2016). Single and multi-gene phylogeny of Hepatospora (Microsporidia) – a generalist pathogen of farmed and wild crustacean hosts. Parasitology (Cambridge) Abstract.
Watson AK, Williams TA, Williams BAP, Moore KA, Hirt RP, Embley TM (2015). Transcriptomic profiling of host-parasite interactions in the microsporidian Trachipleistophora hominis. BMC Genomics Abstract.
Read BA, Kegel J, Klute MJ, Kuo A, Lefebvre SC, Maumus F, Mayer C, Miller J, Monier A, Salamov A, et al (2013). Pan genome of the phytoplankton Emiliania underpins its global distribution. Nature, 499(7457), 209-213. Abstract.  Author URL.
Campbell SE, Williams TA, Yousuf A, Soanes DM, Paszkiewicz KH, Williams BAP (2013). The Genome of Spraguea lophii and the Basis of Host-Microsporidian Interactions. PLoS Genet, 9(8). Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Elliot C, Burri L, Kido Y, Kita K, Moore AL, Keeling PJ (2010). A broad distribution of the alternative oxidase in microsporidian parasites. PLoS Pathogens, 6(2). Abstract.
Williams BAP (2009). Unique physiology of host-parasite interactions in microsporidia infections. Cellular Microbiology, 11(11), 1551-1560. Abstract.
Lee RCH, Williams BAP, Brown AMV, Adamson ML, Keeling PJ, Fast NM (2008). Alpha- and beta-tubulin phylogenies support a close relationship between the microsporidia Brachiola algerae and Antonospora locustae. J Eukaryot Microbiol, 55(5), 388-392. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Haferkamp I, Keeling PJ (2008). An ADP/ATP-specific mitochondrial carrier protein in the microsporidian Antonospora locustae. J Mol Biol, 375(5), 1249-1257. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Cali A, Takvorian PM, Keeling PJ (2008). Distinct localization patterns of two putative mitochondrial proteins in the microsporidian Encephalitozoon cuniculi. J Eukaryot Microbiol, 55(2), 131-133. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Lee RCH, Becnel JJ, Weiss LM, Fast NM, Keeling PJ (2008). Genome sequence surveys of Brachiola algerae and Edhazardia aedis reveal microsporidia with low gene densities. BMC Genomics, 9 Abstract.  Author URL.
Lee RCH, Williams BAP, Brown AMV, Adamson ML, Keeling PJ, Fast NM (2008). α- and β-tubulin phylogenies support a close relationship between the microsporidia Brachiola algerae and Antonospora locustae. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, 55(5), 388-392. Abstract.
Weiss, L.M. Feng, X. Williams, B.A. (2007). Analysis of the beta-tubulin genes from <em>Enterocytozoon bieneusi</em> isolates from a human and rhesus macaque. J Eukaryot Microbiol, 54, 38-41.
Burri L, Williams BAP, Bursac D, Lithgow T, Keeling PJ (2006). Microsporidian mitosomes retain elements of the general mitochondrial targeting system. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 103(43), 15916-15920. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Slamovits CH, Patron NJ, Fast NM, Keeling PJ (2005). A high frequency of overlapping gene expression in compacted eukaryotic genomes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 102(31), 10936-10941. Abstract.  Author URL.
Keeling PJ, Fast NM, Law JS, Williams BAP, Slamovits CH (2005). Comparative genomics of microsporidia. Folia Parasitol (Praha), 52(1-2), 8-14. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Keeling PJ (2005). Microsporidian mitochondrial proteins: expression in Antonospora locustae spores and identification of genes coding for two further proteins. J Eukaryot Microbiol, 52(3), 271-276. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Hirt RP (2004). RACE and RAGE cloning in parasitic microbial eukaryotes. Methods Mol Biol, 270, 151-172. Abstract.  Author URL.
Slamovits CH, Williams BAP, Keeling PJ (2004). Transfer of Nosema locustae (Microsporidia) to Antonospora locustae n. comb. based on molecular and ultrastructural data. J Eukaryot Microbiol, 51(2), 207-213. Abstract.  Author URL.
Fast NM, Law JS, Williams BAP, Keeling PJ (2003). Bacterial catalase in the microsporidian Nosema locustae: implications for microsporidian metabolism and genome evolution. Eukaryot Cell, 2(5), 1069-1075. Abstract.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Keeling PJ (2003). Cryptic organelles in parasitic protists and fungi. Adv Parasitol, 54, 9-68. Abstract.  Author URL.
Hirt, R.P. Williams, B.A. Embley, T.M. (2003). Horizontal gene transfer and the evolution of parasitic protozoa. Protist, 154, 17-32.
Williams BAP, Hirt RP, Lucocq JM, Embley TM (2002). A mitochondrial remnant in the microsporidian Trachipleistophora hominis. Nature, 418(6900), 865-869. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bray RA, Littlewood DTJ, Herniou EA, Williams B, Henderson RE (1999). Digenean parasites of deep-sea teleosts: a review and case studies of intrageneric phylogenies. Parasitology, 119(SUPPL.). Abstract.


Williams B, Williams T, Trew J (2022). Comparative Genomics of Microsporidia. In Weiss L, Reinke A (Eds.) Microsporidia.
Williams BAP, Dolgikh VV, Sokolova YY (2014). Microsporidian Biochemistry and Physiology. In  (Ed) Microsporidia, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 245-260.  Author URL.
Williams BAP, Keeling PJ (2011). Microsporidia – Highly Reduced and Derived Relatives of Fungi. In Pöggeler S, Wöstemeyer J (Eds.) Evolution of Fungi and Fungal-Like Organisms, Springer Verlag.

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External Engagement and Impact

Invited lectures

Apri 2016, Invited speaker, Protist UK, Bournemouth

August 2015, Invited Speaker, OECD symposium, “Microsporidia in the Animal to Human Food Chain: An International Symposium to Address Chronic Epizootic Disease”, Vancouver, Canada

April 2013, Invited speaker, Devon Beekeepers Association AGM, Exeter.

August 2012, Invited symposium speaker. Society for Invertebrate Pathology meeting, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

July 2010, Invited symposium speaker. International Society for Protistology meeting, Canterbury, Kent.

October 2009, International Symposium on Bombyx mori functional Genomics and the Modern Silk Road, Chongqing, China.

September 2008, Invited speaker, Society for General Microbiology meeting, Dublin, Ireland.

Research funding

Horizon 2020 Innovative Training Networks (ITN), Insect Doctors, 2019-2023 (Co-I)

NERC iCASE Training Grant. The Enterocytozoon Clade - Emergent Microsporidia in the Aquatic-Terrestrial Food Chain. 2016-2020

NERC New investigator award, 2010-2012, Emergent diversity of an ecologically important parasite group

Cosyst Award BBSRC/Linnean Society, 2008, Molecular evolution of Rozella allomycis: A primordial parasitic fungal lineage?

Royal Society Unversity Reseach Fellowship, 2007-2017,  Eukaryotic minimalism and parasitic complexity in the Microsporidia.

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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Edouard Bessette
  • Sam Edwards


  • Scott Campbell Ph.D.
  • Zhengfeng Ding
  • Jill Dunn Research Assistant
  • Kristina Hamilton Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Roland Pevsner
  • Jahcub Trew
  • Dominic Wiredu-Boakye

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